In brief: One of the two men who ran a YouTube content scam that earned them over $23 million is facing a 70-month prison sentence, as requested by the US. Almost six years is a long time, but the government says it wants to deter anyone considering fraud.
In 2021, Jose "Chanel" Teran of Scottsdale, Arizona, and Webster Batista Fernandez of Doral, Florida, were accused of stealing royalties from YouTube by claiming to own the rights to over 50,000 unmonetized Spanish-language songs and uploading them to the platform. In some instances, forged notes from the artists in question were used to claim the pair managed the music rights.
YouTube approved the pair for the platform's Content ID system, which is supposed to identify songs that appear in video uploads so rights holders can claim ad money. They also signed a sound recording and audiovisual content license that allows Google to offer the music to users in exchange for monetization revenue.
The money was collected through MediaMuv, a firm set up by the defendants. It became a trusted YouTube Content ID member through a third-party company referred to by the initials A.R. At one point, five to eight people were working for MediaMuv, using specialist software to find unmonetized music that would be added to the catalog.
One of the tracks, Piso 21's 'Me Llamas,' earned Teran and Batista over $100,000 through the video's 700+ million YouTube views.
Some of the ill-gotten gains were used to buy a $550,000 mansion, $129,000 went on Teslas, $93,000 to buy a BMW hybrid, and $62,000 on jewelry.
Batista pleaded guilty last year, while Teran signed a plea agreement admitting to engaging in wire fraud and money laundering in February, writes TorrentFreak.
Teran was said to be an aspiring musician who looked up to his co-defendant, who is called the leader of the operation.
"Mr. Teran believed Mr. Batista to be a successful businessman in the music field with whom he could realize his dream of producing music, movies, and music videos. Believing the co-conspirator to be a close friend, Mr. Teran was excited to be the recipient of the co-conspirator's advice and partnership," writes Teran's attorney.
The prosecution writes that Teran obtained more than $6 million from the scheme, which was used to sustain a lavish lifestyle. He also continued to obtain fraudulent royalty payments after he was indicted.
Teran is scheduled to be sentenced later this month, with a 70-month sentence being recommended. Batista's sentencing is set for August.