After a holiday weekend, we need to ramp up slowly so here's a great tale of karma coming home to roost.
As reported by Naked Security, this is the story. On 2 September, 2013, a California resident, Jesse T., was arrested and booked into the Sonoma County Jail. Naturally, police took his mugshot and his fingerprints. He was released 12 days later without being charged for a crime.
He submitted a lot of job applications online, but got no response. A friend told him she found his mugshot online a year after his arrest – so he searched for himself on Google.
He found that his arrest information had been published to a site called Mugshots.com. The site listed his full name, address, gender, and the charge for which Jesse T. had been arrested. It did not say he hadn't been charged or convicted. Also on the site, he found a link to unpublisharrest.com. That led him to a phone number. When he called the 800 number, a man told him he'd need to pay $399 to have his mugshot taken down.
"That's illegal," said Jesse T. The man laughed and hung up. Jesse T. called a total of five times, but all he got was a recording. Then, he got a call from an unlisted number. He turned on his recorder and answered.
According to court documents, this is the transcript from that call, which Jesse T. presented to police (language warning):
Jessie T.: Hello?
Unknown male: This third time tell you f**king bitch we never answer your calls again you've been permanently published faggot bitch.
Jessie T.: Hey, I'd like my stuff removed."
The apparent business model: Mugshots.com publishes people's mugshots, without their knowledge or consent, and then it extorts them to remove the content. So . . . the site's founders were arrested for extortion and you can enjoy their mugshots if you click on the link above.
According to a 25-page affidavit, between January 2014 and January 2017, Mugshots.com extorted at least 5,703 people throughout the US, for a total of approximately $2.5 million. Extortion clearly pays pretty well.
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra announced that two of four alleged owners and operators of Mugshots.com – Sahar Sarid and Thomas Keesee – were arrested in south Florida on a recently issued California warrant, on charges of extortion, money laundering, and identity theft.
Beyond those two alleged extortionists, the warrant also mentions Kishore Bhavnanie and David Usdan. Bhavnanie has arraigned by a Pennsylvania state judge, with bail reportedly set at $1.86 million. Usdan is also reportedly in custody, according to Tania Mercado, a spokeswoman for the California Attorney General's office.
According to Becerra's press release, Mugshots.com mines data from police and sheriffs' department websites to collect individuals' names, booking photos and charges. It then republishes the information online without the individuals' knowledge or consent. People who request removal go through what Jesse T. went through: they're routed to a secondary website called Unpublisharrest.com and charged a "de-publishing" fee to have the content removed.
The criminal record information stays up until individuals pay even if the charges were dropped.
From the release:
"Those subjects who cannot pay the fee may subsequently be denied housing, employment, or other opportunities because their booking photo is readily available on the internet."
Read the post to learn of some of the dreadful individual stories of the victims.
I am delighted to see that all of this site's owners will likely have their mugshots online forever – just deserts indeed.
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Phone: 703-359-0700
Digital Forensics/Information Security/Information Technology