Alleged 'revenge porn' Web site operator arrested in California

The man allegedly created a site where sexually explicit photographs of individuals were posted without their approval and then allegedly extorted money from victims for removal of images.

A San Diego man accused of running a "revenge porn" Web site that illegally posted more than 10,000 sexually explicit photographs of individuals without their permission has been arrested, the California attorney general's office said.

Kevin Christopher Bollaert, 27, was arrested Tuesday and charged with 31 felony counts of conspiracy, identity theft, and extortion, Attorney General Kamala D. Harris said Tuesday in a statement.

"This website published intimate photos of unsuspecting victims and turned their public humiliation and betrayal into a commodity with the potential to devastate lives," Harris said.

In December 2012, Bollaert created the Web site ugotposted.com, which allowed users to anonymously post private photographs containing nude and explicit images of individuals without their permission, prosecutors allege in court documents. However, the site required uploaded images be accompanied by the subject's full name, address, age, and social media profiles, according to the criminal complaint (PDF).

Victims wanting their images and information removed from the site were directed to a second Web site Bollaert created called changemyreputation.com, where they could pay $250 to $350 to have their information removed, according to court documents. Between December 2012 and September 2013, Bollaert collected more than $10,000 from victims wishing to have their images and information removed from ugotposted.com, prosecutors allege.

According to the arrest warrant (PDF), one alleged victim said she was afraid to return to work because of harassment resulting from her name and Facebook information being posted on ugotposted.com. In one of several testimonials included in the warrant, a woman identified as Jane Doe No. 6 wrote in an e-mail to the site:

"PLEASE HELP! I am scared for my life! People are calling my work place and they obtained that information through this site! I did not give permission for anyone to put up those pictures or my personal information. I have contacted the police but these pictures need to come down! Please!

Others told of being harassed by strangers after their images appeared on the site, forcing them to close their social network accounts and change phone numbers.

Bollaert allegedly told investigators that he routinely received about 100 e-mails per day from people requesting that content be removed from his site. And he allegedly received about $900 a month from the site's victims via a PayPal account. But after PayPal limited his access to the account in May, he allegedly instructed the victims to pay with Amazon gift cards.

"Yeah, I realize like this is not a good situation," Bollaert told authorities, according to the arrest warrant. "I feel bad about the whole thing and like I just don't want to do it anymore. I mean I know a lot of people are getting screwed over like on the site. Like their lives are getting ruined."

"At the beginning, it was fun and entertaining, but now it's just like ruining my life," he told investigators.

Bollaert, who is being held on $50,000 bail, faces unspecified prison time and fines if convicted. California Gov. Jerry Brown in October signed a bill that promises up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine for people "convicted of illegally distributing private images with the intent to harass or annoy." However, Bollaert is charged with felonies related to obtaining personal identifying information for unlawful purposes, including the intent to annoy or harass.

 

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