Two of the alleged owners of Mugshots.com, Sahar Sarid and Thomas Keesee, have been arrested in Florida. Mugshots.com is a website that publishes mugshots and charges for their removal. In addition to Sarid and Keesee, the site’s other two owners, Kishore Vidya Bhavnanie and David Usdan, have also been arrested.
Ars Technica reports that the four men stand accused of identity theft, money laundering, and extortion. Sarid and Kessee were arrested on warrants issued by the State of California and the state’s Attorney General, Xavier Becerra, has called the website exploitative.
“This pay-for-removal scheme attempts to profit off of someone else’s humiliation,” Becerra said in a statement released by his office. “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.”
In the statement, Becerra’s office said that Mugshots.com extorted more than $64,000 from 175 people with California addresses. On the national stage, Mugshots.com took in an excess of $2 million from more than 5,700 individuals.
Mugshots.com charged people hundreds of dollars to have their photos removed from the site’s database. To make matters worse, the site did not differentiate between those who were successfully prosecuted, found not guilty, or even those who had been never formally charged with a crime. If you were arrested for any reason, your photo could end up on Mugshots.com, where anyone could find it.
The 29-page affidavit details the lengths some users went to in order to have their photos removed. One person, Jesse T., repeatedly attempted to get his photo removed and offered proof that he had been released from jail without being charged with a crime. Mugshots.com’s sister site unpublisharrest.com told him he would need to pay $400 to have his photo removed. After repeatedly protesting his innocence, a representative from the responded with expletives and told him his photo was permanent.
As of the time of this article’s writing, Mugshots.com remains online, but some are hopeful that the prosecution of the site’s owners will mark the beginning of the end for it and similar websites.
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