An Arizona woman who ran a popular YouTube channel called Fantastic Adventures has been arrested after police say she abused her seven adoptive children -- sometimes, in an effort to make them participate in her YouTube videos.
Machelle Hobson, 48, was arrested March 15 after police conducted a welfare check at her Maricopa home, KNXV-TV reported. Her charges include molestation of a child, child abuse, unlawful imprisonment and child neglect, according to The Arizona Republic.
Hobson’s two oldest biological sons, Logan Hackney and Ryan Hackney, were also arrested on charges of failing to report child abuse.
The Arizona Department of Child Safety removed the seven children from Hobson's custody after the welfare check, the newspaper reported.
For the past year, Hobson made videos at her home, starring her children, for Fantastic Adventures. Her YouTube channel, which had more than 800,000 subscribers and contained some videos that had millions of views, was shut down Wednesday, The Arizona Republic reported.
The videos portrayed what appeared to be a relatively normal family life, with the children plotting to steal cookies or shooting a babysitter with Nerf guns. But police said the children reported being beaten, pepper-sprayed or locked in a closet if they forgot their lines or otherwise didn’t properly perform for Hobson’s videos, according to The Arizona Republic.
Police initially learned of the alleged abuse when Hobson’s biological daughter reported it to them March 13. When police conducted the welfare check March 15, they found a child in a closet wearing a pull-up diaper and no other clothing, according to a Maricopa police report.
The other children looked malnourished and underweight and had pale complexions and dark rings under their eyes, the report said. They complained of being thirsty and hungry, and one child drank three, 16-ounce water bottles in less than 20 minutes, according to the report.
The children told police they had been pulled out of school a year prior so they could focus on making YouTube videos, police said. The children also detailed alleged abuse they had endured.
"I either get beat with a hanger or belt, or a brush, or get pepper-sprayed from head to toe,” one child said, according to the report.
Hobson denied all allegations of abuse to police after her arrest, the report said. She allegedly told police she only punished the children by making them stand in a corner, spanking them or grounding them.
The Pinal County Attorney's Office is reviewing the allegations.
Neither Hobson nor her sons have a criminal history in Arizona, according to court records. Hobson is scheduled to make an initial court appearance Tuesday, while Logan Hackney and Ryan Hackney will make appearances April 8.
YouTube officials released the following statement to KNXV-TV:
"We take safety on YouTube very seriously. We work closely with leading child safety organizations and others in our industry to protect young people. 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."