Well, karma has finally caught up with the owners of Mugshots.com. Charges were filed against them in the state of California. These charges include cyber extortion, money laundering, and identity theft. The site owners were residents of the shady state of Florida. The investigation was conducted by the Northern California Computer Crimes task force and now the California attorney general is pursuing the case against them They are being accused of profiting from the humiliation and misfortune of California residents that have been arrested.
Mugshots.com mines images and data from sheriff and police department’s websites and publishes the information without consent. They then run a second site called Unpublisharrest.com that charges a fee to remove the images from their website. Erasemugshots.com does a similar thing with rapsheets.org. Both operators claim that they do not accept a fee to remove images but are doing so under the guise of a second website. Two other site owners are being held Kishore V. Bhavnanie and David Usdan. Bhavnanie is being held on a bail of 1.86 million dollars.
The attorney general’s office said in a press release published Wednesday that, over the past three years, the defendants had made more than $64,000 by charging removal fees from around 175 individuals with billing addresses in California. Nationally, investigators believe that the operation earned more than $2 million in removal fees from more than 5,700 individuals during the same period.
“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, Becerra said. This is exploitation.
The affidavit details stories of a man called “K.H.” who was unable to find a job due to the fact his mugshot was appearing online when potential employers ran a preliminary search on him. Other stories include a woman who was unable to get a photo of her deceased husband removed without paying a fee.
The probe into the website showed it was formed in 2011 and tied to the four named defendants via bank records and search warrants against accounts on Google, Yahoo, Amazon & Comcast. Mugshots.com constitutes a business permeated with fraud, the investigator’s statement concluded.
As of now the website is still up and running as the California attorney general’s office seeks to have the men extradited to California.