Ozy Media Shuts Down After Founder Carlos Watson Charged With Fraud

Ozy Media has closed its doors after Carlos Watson, the digital media and entertainment company’s founder and CEO, was arrested and indicted on federal fraud charges.

⁦‪”In light of its current operational and legal challenges, the Ozy board has determined that it’s in the best interests of its stakeholders to suspend operations immediately,” the company said on its Twitter account Wednesday. The company’s website, ozy.com, was unreachable as of Wednesday evening.

On Feb. 23, Watson was arrested in Manhattan and charged with conspiracy to commit securities fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud in what the Justice Department alleged was a scheme to defraud Ozy’s investors and lenders. Watson was also charged with “aggravated identity theft” for his role in the impersonation of “multiple media company executives” in communications with Ozy’s lenders and prospective investors in furtherance of the fraud schemes, federal prosecutors said.

In a Twitter thread posted last Friday, Watson said he “will fight these charges with everything I have, and I look forward to my day in court.”

“I am deeply disappointed by the government’s actions yesterday. I am not now and never have been a ‘con man.’ I am and have been, a hard-working entrepreneur who has helped build a special company from scratch,” he wrote. Watson continued, “I’m not saying I haven’t made mistakes – I have. But it’s fair to ask, why I’ve been singled out? Ozy is a real and valuable company that was built through an enormous amount of hard work and sacrifice.”

Former Ozy COO Samir Rao and ex-chief of staff Suzee Han previously pleaded guilty to charges relating to their roles in the alleged fraud scheme, the Justice Department said.

According to the federal indictment against Watson, in December 2019 he tried to secure a loan by instructing Ozy’s then-CFO to send the bank a fake contract between Ozy and an unidentified cable network purporting to be for a second-season renewal of one of the company’s shows. When the CFO refused, Rao — with Watson’s approval — sent the fake contract with a forged signature, according to the DOJ.

Watson co-founded Ozy Media in 2013, described as “a multiplatform media company that aims to help curious people see a broader and bolder world.” He previously had stints as a political commentator and host at CNN and MSNBC.

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