Mugshots.com Owners Charged with Extortion
A noticeable disclaimer graces the homepage of Mugshots.com, below which a list of criminal suspects appears. Each suspect can be identified by a clear booking photograph, next to which you can read a description of their crime. Recently, the four men behind Mugshots.com were arrested and charged with white collar crimes in connection to their money-making scheme. Two were booked in South Florida — one into the Broward County Jail and one in the Palm Beach County Jail.
The men face charges of extortion, money laundering, and identity theft for forcing people to pay hundreds of dollars to have their criminal records and arrest photographs removed from the site. Charging people money to remove their mugshots from the internet was outlawed in California in 2014 and more recently in Florida. California Attorney General Xavier Becerra issued the arrest warrant, which seeks to extradite the South Florida men to California, where the case will be tried.
Understanding the Mugshots.com Business Model
Mugshots.com mines publicly-available arrest records from all over the country and plasters the information on their website. People may be directed to an intermediary site — unpublisharrest.com — where they can request the removal of their information. Whoever answers the request demands hundreds of dollars in exchange for taking the information down.
In all, the people behind Mugshots.com have allegedly charged at least 5,703 people to have their mugshots removed, making approximately $2.4 million in the process. Those who cannot afford to pay them have experienced real harm in their personal and professional lives.
How has Mugshots.com Hurt People?
Mugshots.com has been sued several times by people whose lives have been damaged because the information posted on the site often tells only part of the story. These lawsuits have been unsuccessful in the past because the lawyers filing them have not been able to locate the owners. Although Mugshots.com is not the only website making money by publicizing arrest information and booking photos, it is by far the most well-known, meaning that appearing on the site can have long-lasting repercussions.
In one case, a man from Sonoma County, California experienced tremendous difficulty finding a job. He had applied for construction, manufacturing, and electrical positions to no avail. After nearly a year of unreturned phone calls and emails, a friend of his asked if he had recently been in prison.
To the man’s dismay, he found his arrest on Mugshots.com when he used Google to search his own name. Although he had been arrested, he was never charged with a crime. The listing on Mugshots.com made no mention of this important fact, which could have saved him from significant hardships.
In another case, a mother searched her son’s name and found her late husband’s mugshot. Her late husband was jailed for one night but had never been charged with a crime and had no criminal history. He had committed suicide years later. When she called Mugshots.com to remove the listing, she was told she would have to pay.
The website even keeps criminal records up after local police departments have taken them down. The operators who post criminal information make no exceptions in cases where police arrested people by mistake or for people who never faced formal charges.
What Can a Criminal Defense Lawyer do to Clear Your Record?
At The Umansky Law Firm, our experienced Orlando criminal defense lawyers will fight to remove your mugshot from these websites. You may have to expunge or seal your criminal record or prove that your charges were dismissed. Find out what each site on which your mugshot is listed requires to take down the information you don’t want up there, then discuss your case with one of our attorneys.
We offer free consultations to help you resolve your legal issues. Call our office today to get started.