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Mugshots.com founders charged with extortion, money laundering and identity theft

May 22, 2018  |  Posted by: Francesca Falzarano
Mugshots.com founders charged with  extortion, money laundering and identity theft

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They made millions of dollars circulating mugshots on the internet, requiring excessive removal fees from their subjects.

Currently, the mugshots of Sahar Sarid and Thomas Keesee, two of the four owners of Mugshots.com, are making their rounds on the internet after they were taken into custody on extortion, money laundering, and identity theft charges.

The website owners Sarid, Keesee, Kishore Vidya Bhavnanie, and Davis Usdan were charged on Wednesday for their infamous website that publishes booking photos and arrest details taken from police websites and removes them only if a payment is paid.

The four men made over $64,000 in removal fees over a three-year period from 175 people in California, the Daily Mail reported.

Across the country, they made over $2million in removal fees from 5,703 individuals.

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

Arrest warrants were issued for the four by the California Attorney General’s Office, Thomas Keesee’s warrant pictured above

“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,” he continued.

However, the suspects were tracked down by the Northern California Computer Crimes Task Force, an organization focused on stopping cybercrime.

The defendants all live in other states and the California Attorney General’s Office is requesting their extradition to prosecute the case.

Bhavnanie was arraigned by a state judge in Pennsylvania last week with bail set at $1.86million.

The California Attorney General’s office spokesperson Tania Mercado said Usdan has also been taken into custody.

The four were charged for running Mugshots.com, a website that posts booking photos and removes them only if a fee is paid, Sarid’s warrant pictured above

In the 29-page affidavit, prosecutors refer to the site as a “business permeated with fraud.”

The court filing includes the accounts of individuals who allege that the business has risked their lives and careers.

One instance comes from a man named Jesse T of Sonoma County California who said he was arrested and held in custody for 12 days before he was released and not charged with a crime in 2013.

One year later, he came across his mugshot on the website which he says hindered him from getting a job, despite applying to 100 openings in construction, electrics, and manufacturing.

When he contacted the website he was told it would be $399 to remove the picture. When he told the man on the phone that such a method was illegal, he laughed and hung up.

After numerous unsuccessful calls, Jesse said he answered a call from an unlisted number and recorded it in 2016.

Two of the alleged owners Thomas Keesee (left) and Sahar Sarid pictured above

When he answered, a man on the line said: “-this third time tell you f****** b****, we never answer your calls again you’ve been permanently published, f***** b****.”

Sahar Sarid released a statement on his website indicating that he stopped working with the site in 2013 and is now a web developer in Thailand.

“My involvement with Mugshots.com ended in December 2013. Before that, my limited role with these ventures was always as an unpaid consultant. I never got paid nor wanted to be paid. I was not an owner or an officer of any business related to Mugshots.com,” he stated.

“Mugshots.com makes arrest records easier to find. I support these ideas and ideals,” he continued.

In 2016, Mugshots.com was sued in Illinois court by two individuals who were featured on the website who claimed that an incorrect listing on the site placed a victim ‘a month away from homelessness.”

A total of 18 states have enacted laws forbidding mugshot websites like Mugshots.com from charging removal fees. However, the sites ignore the rules or find ways to get around them.

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