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Two Mugshots.com owners charged with extortion

SACRAMENTO – Two Florida men accused of running an extortion scheme using the website Mugshots.com saw their own police photos released online Wednesday.

The two men, Thomas Keesee and Sahar Sarid, are two of the four alleged operators of the site, which gathered booking photos and posted them online for the purpose of generating “de-publishing fees” in exchange for their removal, according to authorities.

“This pay-for-removal scheme attempts to profit off of someone else’s humiliation,” California Attorney General Xavier Becerra in a news 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.”

In one example, a Northern California man named Jesse T. was arrested but never charged with a crime, according to the Orlando Sentinel. Mugshots.com uploaded Jesse’s booking photo, and he told the paper he spent a year struggling to find a job, being turned down for every position he applied for. It wasn’t until a friend asked if he was in prison that he realized his photo and full name were publicly available on Mugshots.com.

Keesee and Sarid, along with two other people – Kishore Vidya Bhavnanie and David Usdan – face charges of extortion, money laundering and identity theft. Authorities in Florida, Connecticut and Pennsylvania are now working to extradite the suspects to California for trial.

Investigators found that at least 5,703 people paid the owners of Mugshots.com more than $2 million to have their mugshots taken down over a three-year period. Over $64,000 in fees came from 175 people with California billing addresses, according to the release.

As of Friday, the website was still up with two prominent disclaimers in bold letters stating that the people pictured are innocent until proven guilty.

People who believe they were victims of Mugshots.com are encouraged to file a police report with their local department to document the complaint. Anyone who was arrested in California or was in the state when contacting Mugshots.com to take down an image is asked to contact the Attorney General’s eCrime Unit at eCrimeUnit@doj.ca.gov.  Out-of-state complaints can be reported to the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) https://www.ic3.gov.