Two South Florida men are among four people named Wednesday in arrest warrants related to an online website, Mugshots.com, which posts arrest records and booking photographs – and takes them down only for a fee.
Ever since the fall of 2013, Jesse T., of Sonoma County, Calif., has found it nearly impossible to land a job. He’s applied for construction, manufacturing, and electrical positions, with no luck. After nearly a year of unreturned calls and emails, his friend alerted him to a troubling Web page.
Was Jesse in prison, his friend asked, according to an arrest warrant, which did not give Jesse’s last name. When Jesse searched his own name in Google, the first result was a post on Mugshots.com, a website that mines publicly available arrest records from across the country. It indicated that Jesse had been arrested, and included his full name, address and the reason for his detention.
Thomas Keesee; Sahar SaridPhoto: California Attorney General’s Office
They made profits from mug shots, but isn’t it ironic that the owners of Mugshots.com could end up on their own site?
On Wednesday, Sahar Sarid, Thomas Keesee and Kishore Vidya Bhavnanie—three out of four alleged owners of Mugshots.com—were arrested and charged with extortion, money laundering and identity theft, according to the Washington Post. The infamous website harvested people’s mug shots and charged them exorbitant fees to have the photos removed.
The removal fees for the site range from $399 and up. And over the last several years, many people have filed lawsuits against the site, citing embarrassment and saying that just because a booking photo was taken doesn’t mean that a person has been prosecuted for a crime. But the embarrassment of having someone Google your name and your mug shot pops up has lasting effects.
“Once subjects request that their booking photos be removed, they are routed to a secondary website called Unpublisharrest.com and charged a ‘de-publishing’ fee to have the content removed. Mugshots.com does not remove criminal record information until a subject pays the fee,” California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said.
“This pay-for-removal scheme attempts to profit off of someone else’s humiliation,” said Becerra. “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.”
Earlier this year, Peter Gabiola filed a lawsuit against Mugshots.com after he was fired an hour after starting a new job because his new boss Googled his name and saw his photo on the site.
In total, Becerra says, the owners of the site have been paid more than $2 million in removal fees. Talk about making a profit off of someone else’s bad fortune.
I bet these guys didn’t pay.