The four alleged owners of the US website Mugshots.com, that publishes the photos of people shortly after they have been arrested, and then charges individuals to remove their pictures from the website… have themselves been arrested.
Anyone wanting to have their image removed from the website, whether the arrest was a mistake, were later found to be innocent, or guilty could only have their mugshot removed if they agreed to pay a substantial financial payment to the website.
The four men currently charged have been named as Thomas Keesee, Kishore Vidya Bhavnanie, Sahar Sarid and David Usdan. As well as extortion, the four men have also are charged with money laundering and identity theft. Interestingly, none appear on mugshot.com!
$2 million made
According to prosecutors, the website has allegedly generated more than $2 million over the years from people seeking to have their images removed from the site, according to Law Enforcement Officials.
The arrests were made following a lengthy investigation led by the Northern California Computer Crimes Task Force.
Exploitation or Public Relations Management
California’s attorney general, Xavier Becerra, has brought criminal charges against all four men. “This is exploitation, plain and simple,” said Mr Becarra. The four defendants are accused of extracting more than $2m in mugshot-removal fees from over 5,000 people in a three-year period. Of those people, 175 have billing addresses in California, where the alleged Mugshots.com owners will face trial for extortion, money laundering and identity theft. “Those who can’t afford to pay into this scheme to have their information removed pay the price when they look for a job, housing, or try to build relationships with others,” Becarra added. “This pay-for-removal scheme attempts to profit off of someone else’s humiliation.”
According to the BBC, one of the accused, Mr Sarid posted a statement on his personal website in which he claims his involvement with Mugshots.com ended in 2013 after he performed consultancy work for the site.
The fate of the Mugshots.com is unclear. At the time of writing the website did however appear to be operating as normal.