The Man Behind the Pokemon Crime Wave
If you’re to believe that website, the new augmented reality game that has users walking into public parks and streets to catch Pokemon—and is nearing as many daily active users as Twitter—is responsible for a bloodbath. A teen killed his brother over a low-rent Pokemon called a Pidgey, the site reports. Countless were left dead on a Massachusetts highway when a 26-year-old stopped in the middle of the road to catch a Pikachu, it also alleges. And now, on CartelPress.com, the so-called Islamic State widely known as ISIS is claiming credit for the biggest Pokemon tragedy of all: rampant server issues.
No, really. It should be unbelievable. But 10,000 people shared that first story on Facebook. More than 64,000 shared the last one. And the Pokemon highway accident? Some 384,000 shares on Facebook in a couple of days.
And none of them are real.
CartelPress is just one part of the Pokesteria.
Now gamers on other sites are fooling people into donating to a Texas-based Uber driver who claims he witnessed a murder scene while trawling for Pokemon over the weekend—even though that murder scene, just like the rest of these stories, never existed.
That didn’t stop plenty of reputable news agencies from recycling the Satanic Panic-esque stories that were always too good to be true. The Atlantic referenced the highway death in the middle of its story “The Tragedy of Pokemon Go.” The New York Post did the same.
There are plenty more. Pablo Reyes almost caught ’em all. According to the 26-year-old internet prankster—who flooded America’s elevators and drive time radio shows with fake Pokecrime he invented on CartelPress, a new site he created—it’s all one big coding mistake.
“What happened is that I was testing a new platform for CartelPress.com. I was testing out how the site was gonna work. I wrote the stories to see if the platform was going to work correctly, if the programs that I’m using would automatically would push them to the front page,” Reyes told The Daily Beast.
It “worked correctly,” all right.
“The stories on there went viral by accident.”
Reyes is not new to this. He runs a sister site called Huzlers.com, which has almost a half-million likes on Facebook. He wrote these new Pokemon stories on CartelPress thinking “some of them would do well” and pushed them out through the Huzlers Facebook page.
At the start, most of the fans of Huzlers knew the stories were fake, he said. They took the tales for what they were: barely believable satire. But then all hell broke loose. The stories were being shared by Huzlers fans on Facebook, who reached non-Huzlers fans on Facebook, who reached America’s grandmothers on Facebook. Then the stories made their way to Reddit. Then to Twitter, without attribution.
Then, a couple of days later, these crimes that were never committed are part of the Tragedy of Pokemon in The Atlantic. Pablo Reyes used Quick Attack to topple journalistic standards across the internet.
“A lot of people go off the headline. They read the article. They find it funny. This is why it works. There are people who are very gullible out there,” said Reyes. “I mean, if you actually read the article, you can tell the article is bogus.”
See, for example, the article about the teen who was stabbed because deleted his brother’s low-rent Pokemon. Reyes invites you to check out what the medical examiner says in the story: “I would have understood if he had a Dragonite or Gyarados or something like that, but Jesus Christ, for a miserable Rattata?” The medical examiner would have condoned the murder—if it were over better Pokemon.
That’s how Reyes got those half-million Facebook fans. Huzlers.com’s regulars are very much in it for that kind of thing. But it’s the countless millions of didn’t-read-the-article lifers who sustain his website.
“This one only has 384,000 [shares],” he said. “But we’ve had some at a million, half-million, 1.5 million.”
You mean, enough clicks to earn a living?
“If you understand what around 5 to 10 million visits a month can generate in ad revenue...” he said, trailing off. “Yeah.”
Reyes has the whole gambit down to a science. Last month, he figured out a glitch in Facebook’s posting feature that allows him to look like he can predict the future. “The world will go crazy over a dead gorilla, Prince will die, Muhammad Ali will die, Donald Trump will die,” he wrote, then backdated the timestamp to December 2015. The trap got him so many fans on Facebook—a quarter-million—he had to make a different Facebook account for his real friends. A debunking of the post got almost a million views by itself on BuzzFeed.
Sometimes, the stories become self-fulfilling prophecies. Last year on Huzlers, Reyes jokingly predicted that Nicki Minaj would start dating Meek Mill. Then the two started dating for real, and people started turning to Google and finding Huzlers’ fake information from months before. Celebrity bullshit, it turns out, is ridiculously predictable.
That’s why Reyes is turning CartelPress, a “new website in the Huzlers umbrella” of peddling nonsense, into a platform where anybody can publish. He’s writing the software for it, and that’s where he was testing the Pokemon stories that duped the world.
“The media writes bullshit stories. We’re gonna be just like them,” said Reyes. “You can write your own bullshit story yourself. You don’t even have to go to CNN.”
Some gamers with more opportunistic intentions than Reyes, however, are taking their bloody Pokémon storytelling to the next level.
Meet Alex Ramirez. On Monday, gaming fans from YouTube, Reddit, and Twitch donated thousands to a GoFundMe account dedicated to the gamer and Uber driver who reportedly witnessed the dumping of a dead body Saturday night in Beaumont, Texas, while playing Pokemon GO.
Within hours, Ramirez says he was “fired” by Uber when YouTube users began flooding his profile on the ridesharing app with bad reviews. His online fundraiser so far has amassed $5,510, despite warnings that it’s a hoax.
Here’s how the story goes, according to a series of YouTube videos.
Ramirez was livestreaming his Pokemon adventures on YouTube while also on the clock for Uber when he pulled up to a church and saw another vehicle on the scene. “Why is there a random truck here at the church? Is this motherfucker playing Pokemon too?” Ramirez says on the video. Then he gasps.
“Oh my god! Oh my god. Holy shit. This guy just killed… I just witnessed a fucking murder!” he rambles. “How do you dial 911? Hello, hello?”
Ramirez then allegedly calls the cops while keeping his livestream going, telling them a Chevy Silverado pickup is following him. In another video, he tearfully blames internet trolls for reporting him to Uber. “You guys got me fricking fired from Uber. Now I can’t even do my job,” he cries.
The Uber driver offered more details in a video in on a fellow gamer’s YouTube channel, telling Jimmy from ChaosUnsilenced that he’s originally from Houston and just moved to Beaumont, so he is unfamiliar with the city streets. It was on his third visit to the church when he allegedly made the gruesome discovery.
“I’m going to get out and talk to this guy, and then I’m like, ‘Wait, what the fuck? He’s not here capturing Pokemon.’ He was actually walking to the passenger side and opened it, and a fricking body dropped,” Ramirez told the YouTube host.
“When I was talking to the cops and trying to explain to them what I was doing behind a church at 1:30 in the morning, I was telling them about Pokemon,” he added.
Despite the sob story, Beaumont cops say they have no record of Ramirez’s 911 call, let alone reports of a dumped body or murder.
Tony Harding, a public information officer, told The Daily Beast he has no record of “a homicide being seen on a Pokemon GO camera.”
“You’re the third person to call me about his,” Harding said. “We have no  call about that at all, and obviously the police would have been called.”
Harding said cops had no plans to investigate the GoFundMe account associated with the Pokehoax but offered some advice to potential donors: “Everything you see or read on the internet may or may not be true.”
An Uber spokeswoman said the company put a hold on Ramirez’s account after receiving complaints from Uber users. She said the company is investigating the complaints.
She said she had no information about the alleged murder scene or the driver’s apparent affinity for Pokemon.
When The Daily Beast reached out to Ramirez via Skype on Monday night, he said he “doesn’t want any more of this drama” and that he and his wife have been receiving death threats because of the video.
“I didn’t ask for the GoFundMe. I deleted my YouTube channel. I wanted my job. You don’t want none of that when your family is depending on you,” he said.
Ramirez clarified that he “didn’t witness a murder” but that when he pulled into the parking lot, he saw something “fall out of the passenger seat” of a truck that was “long and wrapped up in a trash bag.”
“What else would it be?” he asked.
“Keem,” the proprietor of the YouTube channel with over a million subscribers who first helped share the “murder” video, created the GoFundMe he later handed over to Ramirez. Keem said he’d been trying to get in touch with Ramirez all day Monday but that the former Uber driver “hadn’t responded for four hours.” He insisted he didn’t know Ramirez before this weekend and didn’t call the police department to verify his story first.
“It’s starting to look like a hoax,” Keem told The Daily Beast. “We are trying to contact the local news to speak with the police department.”
Keem told The Daily Beast that Ramirez took $1,500 out of the GoFundMe account before it was locked by site administrators on Monday afternoon “until Alex gives them more info.”
A GoFundMe spokesman later told The Daily Beast, “The funds were not withdrawn from the campaign. We are in communication with the donors, and all refunds will be granted upon request.”
Keem said his co-worker still had access to the account. The Daily Beast asked Ramirez if this was true.
“Does it matter?” he said. “See what I mean? I don’t need this, dude. I deleted my channel. I’m gonna be a nobody after this.”
The Daily Beast then asked Ramirez about rumors that he had previously pulled off similar hoaxes on separate YouTube and Twitch channels under a different name.
“Listen, dude, I am done with this. Why does it matter? I don’t owe you nothing. I got fired from my job for playing Pokémon. Come on, bro. Get the fuck out of here,” he said. Then he hung up.
One YouTube gamer, BiblicalReaper, did his own detective work and recorded a phone call he made to the Beaumont police about Ramirez’s alleged hoax.
“That was fake,” an officer tells him. “It wasn’t real.”
After the call concludes, BiblicalReaper fumes, “Wow, this has to be the scummiest thing I’ve ever seen… I have no words, man.
“This is a new all-time low for a stunt that somebody’s pulled for a YouTube video, man.”