October 24, 2021

No longer a YouTube star

‘I learned my lesson the hard way doing that’

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Paul R. Powell said he no longer plans to continue his once popular FamilyCruisin YouTube channel after his run-in with the law.

Since at least the beginning of 2017, the 35-year-old Plainfield man ran the YouTube channel that mostly featured him driving his prized Dodge Challenger Hellcat.

Last year, however, Powell and four other men were arrested and charged with street racing in Plainfield and on interstate highways.

Powell faced five separate cases with several counts of street racing charges and one case of endangering the life and health of a child. On Feb. 22, he pleaded guilty to three charges of street racing, and the remaining charges were dropped.

Powell said he’s not running his online video channel anymore because there is no point in risking his job and his family over some “silly YouTube” videos.

“I learned my lesson the hard way doing that,” Powell said.

Powell said he felt the outcome of the case was a “fair disposition.” As part of his plea, Powell said he would make himself available to testify against the other defendants if their cases go to trial.

Carole Cheney, the spokeswoman for the Will County State’s Attorney’s Office, also said that in exchange for Powell’s plea, he would make himself available to testify.

Powell is scheduled to appear in court May 20 for a status hearing on his sentencing.

Cheney said he potentially faces $2,500 in fines for each street racing charge, as well as a year in jail for each charge, with the sentences served concurrently.

Calls to Powell’s attorneys, Steven Haney and Joseph Serpico, were not returned Monday.

The charges Powell pleaded guilty to state that he
engaged in street racing Sept. 30 on Interstate 355 in Lemont and on Sept. 12, 2017, on Route 30 in Plainfield.

Street racing cases are still pending against Timothy J. Hagan, 47, of Darien; Joseph N. Lukas, 36, of Romeoville; Steven J. Fredenhagen, 42, of Plainfield; and Ian A. Whelton, 26, of Machesney Park.

The street racing cases were part of a Plainfield police and Will County State’s Attorney’s Office investigation into alleged criminal activity related to “dangerous operation of motor vehicles” discovered on social media.

Hagan ran a YouTube channel called Growls Garage, which no longer exists. He is a registered sexual predator who was convicted of sexually abusing a teenage girl in 2009 while he was working for a school.

Hagan has an open case in DuPage County where he has been charged with being a child sex offender who was present in a public park.

When Powell ran the FamilyCruisin channel, he managed to gain 64,490 subscribers and about 9.9 million views before all of the videos were taken down after his arrest.

Powell was surprised by his own popularity on YouTube. Powell said he earned as many as 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.

In an Aug. 2, 2017, video, Powell sits alone in his Hellcat near a church parking lot. He offers to do a burnout 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.

Powell’s popular Hellcat ended up catching fire in 2018 because of a mechanical failure.

Plainfield firefighters responded to the fire on South Book Road. Powell said he had just picked up his car from a mechanic.

Felix Sarver

Felix Sarver

Felix Sarver covers crime and courts for The Herald-News