An Arizona woman is now behind bars for allegedly abusing her seven adopted children who starred in her popular YouTube channel.
According to BuzzFeed News, 48-year-old Machelle Hackney was arrested last week on suspicion of child abuse, child molestation, unlawful imprisonment, and child neglect. Hackney happened to be the operator of Fantastic Adventures, a scripted YouTube series with more than 800,000 followers and millions of views. The channel was most known for its superhero-themed videos starring Hackney's adopted children, who are between the ages of 3 and 15 years old.
Officers arrived at Hackney's residence on March 13, shortly after her older biological daughter reported the alleged abuse. Officials said that when they arrived at the home, the adopted children appeared malnourished and underweight; they also interviewed some of the children, who accused their mother of heinous acts. One of the girls told authorities that her mother locked her in a closet for days without any food, water, or access to a bathroom.
The police report describes other disturbing claims against Hackney: She allegedly pepper-sprayed a child's genitals, held their head under ice water, and pinched one of the son's on the penis "until it bled." The children also told investigators that they would be punished if they did not participate in the YouTube videos or properly recite their lines.
Social media statistics calculator SocialBlade estimates Fantastic Adventures racks in anywhere from $8,900 to $142,400 a month, and $106,800 to $1.7 million a year. The YouTube channel was demonetized shortly after Hackney's arrest, and was removed from the platform Wednesday afternoon.
"When we're made aware of serious allegations of this nature we take action, which may include suspending monetization, or, upon conclusion of an investigation, terminating channels," a YouTube spokesperson told BuzzFeed.
Hackney has denied the abuse allegations. Her adult sons, Logan and Ryan Hackney, were also charged with seven counts of failing to report abuse of a minor. All three remain locked up without bond.
The seven kids are now in the custody of the Department of Children Services.