California Sues Mugshots.com Over Removal Fees

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra filed extortion and money laundering charges against the owners of a website that publishes mugshot photos and charges a fee to remove them. He is targeting Mugshots.com, which pulls photos and identifying information about criminal suspects from law enforcement departments around the U.S.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra filed extortion and money laundering charges against the owners of a website that publishes mugshot photos and charges a fee to remove them, reports the Sacramento Bee. His office is targeting Mugshots.com, which pulls photos and identifying information about criminal suspects from law enforcement departments around the U.S. The site charges a “de-publishing fee” to remove someone from its archives. Becerra said it has frustrated people who were accused of crimes they did not commit. “This pay-for-removal scheme attempts to profit off of someone else’s humiliation,” he said. “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.”

An affidavit filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court describes California residents who paid hundreds of dollars to have their photos removed from the website. One example: A Santa Rosa resident spent a night in jail but was not charged with a crime. He asked the company to take down his photo. It refused. He recorded a phone conversation with someone from the company who cursed at him and said, “We’ll never take your calls again. You’ve been permanently published (expletve, expletive).” The young man believed his inclusion on the website contributed to his inability to find work. Becerra filed charges against Sahar Sarid, Kishore Vidya Bhavnanie, Thomas Keesee and David Usdan. They live in other states, and Becerra wants to have them extradited to California. Investigators are working with law enforcement in Broward and Palm Beach counties in Florida, and state police in Connecticut and Pennsylvania. Becerra’s office alleged the suspects collected at least $64,000 in removal fees from 175 Californians.

from https://thecrimereport.org