The owners of the website Mugshots.com are getting mugshots of their own. California authorities have arrested Sahar Sarid, Kishore Vidya Bhavnanie, Thomas Keesee, and David Usdan on charges of extortion, money laundering, and identity theft, Attorney General Xavier Becerra said in a statement. Mugshots collects individuals' names, booking photos and charges from police websites, publishes the data online, and then charges a fee to remove it. When people see the mugshot online, their first instinct is to contact the site to get it down, only to be routed to another website called Unpublisharrest.com which charges a fee, usually $399, to have the content removed. Mugshots publishes the photo even if charges were dismissed or the arrest was made in error.
There are other sites like Mugshots, which has allegedly raked in more than $2.4 million in fees from at least 5,703 people in the last three years, reports the Washington Post. In 2014 California passed a law that makes it illegal to charge a fee for mugshot removal, and other states have similar legislation, but websites have ignored the laws or figured out how to work around them, reports the Sacramento Bee. The release of incriminating information can take an enormous toll. One widow said in an affidavit that she tried to get the site to remove the mugshot of her husband, who was never charged with a crime and later committed suicide, per the Post. What they are doing “is very ugly,” she said. “They are profiting from people’s pain.” (Read more mugshots.com stories.)