Ozy Media CEO Carlos Watson said he is “deeply disappointed” in his arrest and indictment for securities fraud, saying he is “not now and never have been a con man.”
In a series of tweets Friday evening, Watson stood his ground, defending his work, vowing to fight the charges “with everything I have” and adding, “I’m not saying I haven’t made mistakes – I have. But it’s fair to ask, why I’ve been singled out?”
Watson was indicted on Thursday morning on charges of conspiring to commit securities and wire fraud. He also faces charges of aggravated identity theft for his role in the impersonation of multiple media company executives in emails with Ozy’s lenders and prospective investors in furtherance of the fraud schemes.
“I am deeply disappointed by the government’s actions yesterday. I am not now and never have been a ‘con man,’” Watson wrote on Twitter. “I am and have been, a hard-working entrepreneur who has helped build a special company from scratch. I have worked around the clock for 10 years to build this company and devoted my life savings to help get us through rough patches. This has been a life’s work and I am proud of what I, my family, and my team have been able to accomplish.”
“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,” he tweeted. “I will fight these charges with everything I have, and I look forward to my day in court. In the meantime, thank you to my family, my friends, and all of OZY’s readers, viewers, and listeners for the words and messages of encouragement.”
Upon Watson’s arrest, United States Attorney Breon Peace said in a statement, “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.”
Watson pleaded not guilty to all charges.
Watson’s Ozy Media collapsed in 2021 after the New York Times published an expose that accused the company of inflating its online traffic and video viewership and revealed that COO Samir Rao had impersonated a Google executive on a fundraising call with Goldman Sachs — sparking an FBI investigation. Rao pleaded guilty to fraud charges, the U.S. Attorney’s office said on Thursday.
If convicted, Watson will face a minimum sentence of two years in prison and a maximum sentence of 37 years.