By WILLIAM FRANCIS
Mugshot website operators indicted for extortion, money laundering, identity theft
The attorney general of California has announced charges of extortion, money laundering, and identity theft against four defendants who allegedly own and operate a "mugshots.com" website. Mugshot websites mine data from law enforcement websites, including jails. These websites permanently display the name, booking photograph, and charges filed against virtually any person who is arrested and booked.
In the past, these "mugshot.com" sites have charged fees to persons requesting that their booking photos be taken down.Generally, unless this fee is paid, the photos and information remains online, even where charges are dismissed, a judgment of acquittal is entered, or a criminal record is expunged.
In Oregon, any person who appears in court on any criminal charge is told by the judge to go to the jail for booking. This command is given to all defendants who appear in court after being cited for any misdemeanor or felony crime. Defendants who are cited are told to report to the jail for booking, even if they were not taken into custody or arrested when the police issued a citation. Read more about Oregon's booking procedures here.
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra stated in a press release, "This pay-for-removal scheme attempts to profit off someone else's humiliation. 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."
The four named defendants are Sahar Sarid, Kishore Vidya Bhavnanie, Thomas Keesee, and David Usdan.
Allegedly, the defendants extracted more than $64,000 from 175 individuals in California, and more than $2 million from approximately 5,700 persons nationally.
Arrest warrants were served in Florida, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania. (Read the attorney general's press release here.)
Sarid and Keesee were arrested in Florida and will be extradited to California.
Every defendant, including Sarid and Keesee, is presumed innocent until proven guilty.