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Owners of Mugshots.Com Arrested for Extortion
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Thomas Keesee (left) and Sahar Sarid (right). Photo courtesy of Ars Technica.

Summary: The owners of the website, Mugshots.com, were arrested on Wednesday for extorting people who had been arrested. 

On Wednesday, the owners of the website, Mugshots.com, finally got a taste of their own medicine when they were arrested and their mugshots were plastered over the internet.

  
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Mugshots.com publishes embarrassing mugshot photos but will take them down if people pay the website owners a fee. The site said that they were providing a public service by releasing arrest photos, which are public records, but some who were falsely arrested or who were arrested with no charges filed said that their photos were still online unless they paid a fee. The California Attorney General likens this to extortion, and this week, the website’s owners were arrested in Florida, according to Ars Technica. 

The two owners, Sahar Sarid and Thomas Keesee, were charged with extortion, money laundering, and identity theft. Two other men, Kishore Vidya Bhavnanie and David Usdan, were also charged.

“This pay-for-removal scheme attempts to profit off of someone else’s humiliation,” Attorney General Xavier Becerra said in a statement. “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. This is exploitation, plain and simple.”

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Sarid and Keessee were arrested in south Florida on Wednesday, and Bhavnanie was arraigned in Pennsylvania. Usdan is also in custody.

Ars Technica said that Bhavanie’s bail was set at $1.86 million.



The four men allegedly “extracted more than $64,000 in removal fees from approximately 175 individuals with billing addresses in California. Nationally, the defendants took more than $2 million in removal fees from approximately 5,703 individuals for the same period,” according to the California AG’s office.

The California AG said that the business model of Mugshots.com was “permeated with fraud,” and the 29-page affidavit listed numerous personal stories of people who had tried to get their pictures removed from the site but to no avail.

On example was Jesse from Sonoma County, California, who said that his 2013 mugshot was published and this picture prevented him from obtaining future employment. He said that he was arrested but never charged with a crime.

Jesse said that when he contacted Mugshots.com to remove the picture he was directed to a sister site called unpublishedarrest.com. He said that he called someone from that site and was told there was a $399 fee to remove his mugshot.

Mugshots.com was previously sued by an Ohio attorney, Scott Ciolek, who told Ars Technica, “Because of the nature of this and other operations like it, the civil remedies are limited and economically unavailable to the vast majority of people. It seems only the state or federal agencies have the resources necessary to pursue these operations. But once the case is resolved the evidence that they have collected will be available to use by the other affected people around the country.”

What do you think of the charges against the owners of Mugshots.com? Let us know in the comments below.



 

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