A YouTube prankster who filmed himself giving a homeless man an Oreo filled with toothpaste has been given a 15 months prison term and a hefty fine.
The New York Times reports that prankster Re Set to (real name Kanghua Ren) was found guilty of violating the moral integrity of the homeless man back in 2017. In addition to serving his prison sentence, Ren must also pay a fine of around €20,000 as punishment for the crime.
Ren, who was 19-years-old at the time of the felony, filmed himself replacing the filling of an Oreo with toothpaste, after being challenged by one of his 1.2 million followers to carry out the prank. He gave the homeless man, identified as Gheorge L - an immigrant from Romania who worked as a shepherd before emigrating to Barcelona - the tainted cookie along with a €20 bill.
Upon eating the cookie, the homeless man immediately vomited. In the original video, which was eventually taken off YouTube, Ren joked: "Maybe I've gone a bit far, but look at the positive side: this will help him clean his teeth. I think he hasn't cleaned them since he became poor."
After backlash from his fans, Ren reportedly went back to the homeless man to see how he liked the toothpaste-filled Oreo. "People exaggerate over jokes in the street (played) on a beggar, when surely if it's done to a normal person they wouldn't say anything," Ren stated in the follow-up vlog, before later deleting the videos and offering Gheorge around €350 so Ren could "re-establish his image".
In his legal defence Ren then explained that the video was just a joke recorded to appease his followers. He told the court: "I do things to mount a show. People like what is morbid." But the judge noted that Ren had earned more than €2,000 in advertising revenue for the video and that it was one of several similarly exploitative clips.
"This was not an isolated act," presiding judge Rosa Aragonés said of the incident, adding that Ren had shown a track record of displaying "cruel behaviours" toward "easy or vulnerable victims".
Born in China but raised in Barcelona, Ren has also been banned from all forms of social media for five years. Although he has been sentenced to 15 months in prison, he's unlikely to serve any time behind bars, since Spanish law normally suspends the sentences of under two years for first-time offenders in nonviolent crimes.