State and local authorities arrested two South Florida owners of Mugshots.com, a website that posts arrest records and booking photographs, on charges of extortion, money laundering, and identity theft.
The arrests of Thomas Keesee, of West Palm Beach, and Sahar Sarid, of Lighthouse Point, on Wednesday come as part of an effort by the California Attorney General’s Office to pursue criminal charges against for individuals behind the “cyber exploitation website,” according to a press release.
Mugshots.com mines data from law enforcement websites to publish people’s names, booking photos and charges, according to the AG’s office. The site reportedly reroutes booking photos to a secondary website called Unpublisharrest.com and charges people a "de-publishing" fee if they wish to have their photo taken down. Criminal records will only be taken down if a person pays Mugshots.com a fee, the AG’s Office said.
Two other owners, Kishore Vidya Bhavnanie and David Usdan, have also been charged.
"This pay-for-removal scheme attempts to profit off of someone else's humiliation," said California Attorney General Becerra in the release. "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."
California outlawed charging people money to remove their mugshot from the internet in 2014, according to the Sacramento Bee.
Last year, Florida passed similar legislation prohibiting soliciting or accepting a fee to remove a booking photograph. The law goes into effect July 1.
Keesee was booked into the Palm Beach County Jail and Sarid was booked into the Broward County Jail on May 16, jail records show. Details of their arrest were not immediately available.
The California AG’s Office worked with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the Broward County Sheriff's Office, Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office, and Connecticut and Pennsylvania authorities to arrest the four owners. California is seeking their extradition and will prosecute the case.