Profiting off Humiliating Others: Mugshot.com Owners Arrested for Pay-for-Removal Scheme

It appears we have seen the last of springfieldmugshots.com.  Last month, the owners of Mugshots.com were arrested on charges of extortion, money laundering, and identity theft. The website used data from police and sheriffs’ department websites, collected names, booking photos, and charges. Then, they published the information online without the person’s consent. To add insult to injury, they charged individuals fees to get the information removed.

The company extracted more than $64,000 in removal fees from approximately 175 individuals. In California, it is illegal to charge people to remove their mugshots. The California AG noted that the “pay-for-removal scheme attempts to profit off of someone else’s humiliation. Those who can’t afford to pay into the scheme to have their information removed pay the price when they look for a job, housing, or try to build relationships with others.”

Missouri Law Criminalizes Pay-for-Removal Schemes

In Missouri, it is a class A misdemeanor for a mugshot website to solicit or accept payment to remove criminal record information and is punishable by up to one year in jail. Each payment solicited or accepted constitutes a separate violation. Additionally, the mugshot website is liable to the subject individual for a loss or harm. The subject individual may be awarded $10,000, or actual and punitive damages. The subject individual only needs to show that he or she was humiliated or embarrassed.

It will be interesting to see if Missouri uses its Pay-for-Removal law to go after mugshot websites. Given the trends noted above, we expect to start seeing more Pay-for-Removal charges. So long springfieldmugshots.com!

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