Carlos Watson, the co-founder of the embattled leftist Ozy Media, was arrested on charges of fraud Thursday, TheBlaze reported. If convicted, the 53-year-old could spend up to 37 years in federal prison.
Ozy was founded in 2013 and quickly created a buzz. The company gained serious momentum after its 2018 Ozy Fest featuring serious personalities such as Katie Couric and Hillary Clinton, as well as performers Rose McGowen and Wyclef Jean.
However, the company was bleeding money and in ruins behind the scenes by 2018. Watson and other executives solved this problem by bilking investors out of millions of dollars under false pretenses.
In 2019, Ozy was so cash-strapped that Watson cooked up a scheme using a fake contract to obtain a bank loan. He allegedly forged the signature of the company's CFO at the time, who resigned when she caught wind of this betrayal.
In an email, she admonished Watson writing, "this . . . is illegal. This is fraud," she wrote, according to court documents.
"This is forging someone’s signature with the intent of getting an advance from a publicly traded bank." The then-CFO later said "what you see as a measured risk — I see as a felony."
The brand had touted itself for highlighting "Alexandria Ocasio Cortez when she was working as a bartender in the Bronx" and sought to become the media company for young progressives, Fox News reported. Instead, it has become notorious for financial finagling.
Watson has been charged with conspiracy to commit securities fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud as part of this effort. "As alleged, Carlos Watson is a con man whose business strategy was based on outright deceit and fraud – he ran Ozy as a criminal organization rather than as a reputable media company," U.S. Attorney Breon Peace said
"Investment fraud undermines confidence in our nation’s markets and investors and makes it harder for honest businesses to compete," Peace said. "Our Office and the Department of Justice have made it clear that prosecuting corporations and their corrupt executives who flagrantly violate the law are top priorities."
Watson did not comment, but his attorney Lanny Breuer said his client was "disappointed" wth the situation. "We have been acting in good faith and believe we had a constructive dialogue with the government and are shocked by the actions this morning."
Other Ozy Media brass, including Chief of Staff Suzee Han and COO Samir Rao, were also allegedly involved in Watson's misdeeds. In 2021, The New York Times reported a now-infamous phone call where Roa raised $40 million from Goldman Sachs by impersonating an executive from YouTube.
He resigned, but the fallout from such brazen malfeasance continued. "Between approximately 2018 and 2021, Watson and his co-conspirators, including Rao and Han, orchestrated a scheme to defraud investors in and lenders to Ozy of tens of millions of dollars through fraudulent misrepresentations and omissions about key aspects of Ozy’s business, including Ozy’s financial results, debts, and audience size," court documents stated.
While Watson's star was rising, he was a contributor on networks such as MSNBC, CNN, and even Fox News. He served on the board of NPR in 2016, but resigned after being accused of "misleading" investors and advertisers.
Watson's alleged crimes could have happened in any media company. However, the fact that he had to do go to these lengths to prop of a leftist media company is telling about the conditions of the marketplace -- people just don't want to any more of that viewpoint.