Authorities in Southern California have taken steps to end illegal street racing organized online by YouTube users.
The Irvine Police Department arrested five people and charged them with conspiracy to participate in illegal street races across Orange County, The Los Angeles Times reports.
Prosecutors said the men held races through Irvine, Tustin, Lake Forest and Foothill Ranch, predominantly on the 241 and 261 tollways, racing at speeds up to 160 mph (257 kph).
Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer called the racing irresponsible and dangerous, displaying "a complete disregard for the lives of everyone involved including the participants, the spectators, and the innocent bystanders.”
“No one driving on our roads should suddenly find themselves in the middle of what equates to a NASCAR race being raced by amateurs who are not trained or skilled enough to drive vehicles being pushed to their mechanical limits,” Spitzer said in a statement.
An investigation by Irvine police into street racing coordinated through social media took about six months, beginning around Jan. 31, 2020, when prosecutors allege 26-year-old Rushdan Abdallah and another man raced through Orange County.
In the the following months, Abdallah allegedly met with three others for races on the two toll roads.
The men posted videos of their driving exploits to YouTube pages. Prosecutors said Abdallah also asked viewers to provide new competitors for races. Abdallah's page, which had more than 220,000 subscribers, went dormant in December.
A video he posted later said police served a search warrant at his home and towed his two cars. The homes of two fellow YouTubers also were raided by police, he said.
“A lot of people don’t understand that you can make a very good living off of YouTube, if you know how to monetize your channel properly,” he said in a February 2020 clip.
A channel of the size operated by Abdallah generated “anywhere from $10,000 to $50,000 per month” in revenue, he said, explaining the money was used for his cars and filming equipment.
Neither Abdallah nor the defense attorney listed in court records, Randy Sarmiento, responded to messages seeking comment. Abdallah was released on $20,000 bail and a judge ordered him not to drive.