Paul R. Powell once said he never thought “in a million years” that 50,000 people would subscribe to his YouTube channel.
The 35-year-old Plainfield resident also may never have thought his popular YouTube videos showing him driving around in powerful, expensive cars would land him behind bars.
Powell made his next video appearance Monday at the Will County Courthouse while he was sitting in jail.
Powell sat in silence while a judge read off multiple charges of street racing and a charge of endangering the life and health of a child filed against him. Powell is one of at least four men who recently were arrested on street racing charges.
The arrests are the result of an investigation by the Plainfield police and the Will County State’s Attorney’s Office into the “dangerous operation” of motor vehicles that was discovered on social media, police said. Police are seeking to arrest three more people in the investigation.
Since at least the beginning of 2017, Powell has run a YouTube channel called FamilyCruisin that mostly featured his prized Dodge Challenger Hellcat car before it apparently went up in flames because of a mechanical failure.
His popularity on YouTube surprised even himself. He said he earned 1 million views in a month.
“I never, ever thought that people would want to see a fat guy from Chicago do that,” Powell said in an
Aug. 16 video.
The channel has 64,490 subscribers and about 9.9 million views. All of the videos disappeared Wednesday. Powell’s attorney apparently requested he shut down his channel, according to his family’s GoFundMe that’s raising funds for legal fees.
In many of Powell’s videos, he’s driving the Hellcat, racing other drivers or talking about cars. In some videos, Powell is driving for Uber, but his father, Paul S. Powell, said those videos were staged. Powell is seen in one of the videos giving a disgruntled customer a free ride in exchange for a good Uber rating. In another, Powell said he was fired.
Some in Powell’s circle of car geeks also were swept up in the criminal investigation.
Timothy J. Hagan, 47, of Darien, who had a channel called Growls Garage, was arrested on a street racing charge. Hagan is a registered sexual predator. He was convicted of sexually abusing a teenage girl in 2009 while he was working for a school.
Powell and Hagan raced together in one video.
Joseph N. Lukas, 36, of Romeoville and Steven J. Fredenhagen, 41, of Plainfield, also were arrested on street racing charges. Plainfield police said arrest warrants have been issued for three more people.
Paul S. Powell said his son is “a good kid” who’s never been arrested or been to jail. He said his son works as a Microsoft system analyst, but he apparently lost his job after he was released from jail Tuesday, according to his family’s GoFundMe.
In an Aug. 2, 2017, video, Powell sits alone in his Hellcat near a church parking lot. He offers to do a burnout in the lot if viewers give him $100.
“For $200, I’ll do it in front of a police station,” Powell said.
In an April 18, 2018, video, Powell talks about how he was able to afford his Hellcat, which cost him about $72,000. He said he went to a credit union and asked for a “gigantic” loan.
“How I got to where I’m at? Really hard work, dedication and big, gigantic loans,” Powell said.