Attorney General Kamala D. Harris Announces No Contest Plea By Cyber-Exploitation Website Operator
SAN FRANCISCO -- Attorney General Kamala D. Harris announced today that cyber-exploitation website operator, Casey E. Meyering, has pled no contest to one count of extortion, three counts of attempted extortion, and one count of conspiracy. He is expected to be sentenced on June 8, 2015. Meyering operated WinByState.com, a cyber-exploitation website on which intimate images of unsuspecting victims were posted without the victims’ consent.
Meyering, 28, of Tulsa, Oklahoma, entered his no contest plea today in Napa County Superior Court. Meyering’s no-contest plea is considered by the court the same as a plea of guilty and, following his plea today, the court found him guilty.
“Today’s plea makes it clear that there will be severe consequences for those who profit from exploiting women online,” said Attorney General Harris. “This is a turning point in the fight against cyber exploitation and a message to those who cowardly profit from victimizing, belittling, and harassing women. My office will continue to be vigilant, and we will investigate and prosecute those who commit these deplorable acts.”
Meyering was arrested in Tulsa on February 13, 2014, and extradited to California following an investigation led by the California Department of Justice’s eCrime Unit. The investigation revealed that the website Meyering owned and administered, WinByState.com, solicited the anonymous, public posting of private photographs containing nude and explicit images of individuals without their permission.
Described as “a user supported website where you can trade your ex-girlfriend, your current girlfriend, or any other girl that you might know,” WinByState.com solicited uploaders to identify their “wins” by city and state, sometimes using the victim’s complete or partial name. In the California-specific user forum for this website, there were over 400 postings.
WinbyState.com also required victims to pay $250 via a Google Wallet account to remove posted photographs. The account was named TakeDownHammer, and it was registered to Meyering at a fictitious Beverley Hills storefront. Law enforcement agents purchased a “takedown” for one of the victims in Napa, and traced the funds to Meyering’s bank account in Tulsa. Surveillance footage from the bank identified him withdrawing money from the account.
The investigation started in February 2013 from a complaint by a Northern California victim to a Rohnert Park Department of Public Safety detective. The victim suspected that a college classmate had hacked the victim’s computer and retrieved nude images. Through search warrants, law enforcement discovered that the victim’s classmate had indeed hacked and stolen nude images of her. The Sonoma County District Attorney’s Office convicted the classmate for identity-theft related crimes, and he received an eight-month jail sentence.
In September 2013, the victim sought law enforcement’s help again because her images appeared on Meyering’s website, WinByState.com. After law enforcement efforts to have Meyering take down the images failed, it paid Meyering’s $250 fee to his Google Wallet account. Following search warrants, law enforcement traced the website and Google Wallet account to Meyering and were able to identify additional California victims.
Meyering’s guilty plea follows the conviction of Kevin Bollaert, the operator of a similar cyber exploitation website. A jury found Bollaert guilty of 6 counts of extortion and 21 counts of identity theft, and a superior court judge in San Diego County sentenced him to 18 years of incarceration. The Bollaert case was the first criminal prosecution of a cyber exploitation website operator in the country.
Attorney General Harris has sponsored a package of bills in the California legislature that will increase protections for victims and provide tools for law enforcement to prosecute the growing number of cyber exploitation cases in California. The bills have been approved by the Senate Committee on Public Safety for SB 676, authored by Senator Anthony Cannella (R-Ceres), and in the Assembly Committee on Public Safety for AB 1310, authored by Assemblymember Mike Gatto (D-Glendale).
In addition, Attorney General Harris has convened a working group of 50 major technology companies, victim advocates, and legislative and law enforcement leaders to fight cyber exploitation through a public private partnership. Specifically, the Attorney General’s working group on cyber exploitation is working on four key areas: developing an industry statement of principles, education and prevention, law enforcement training and collaboration and legislation and advocacy. The working group includes major tech companies such as, Microsoft, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. AB 1310 was also approve by the Assembly Privacy and Consumer Protection Committee.
Attorney General Harris created the eCrime Unit in 2011 to investigate and prosecute identity theft crimes, cybercrimes and other crimes involving the use of technology.
Attorney General Harris also acknowledged the investigative efforts by the Department of Justice’s law enforcement partners, including the Rohnert Park Department of Public Safety and the Northern California Computer Crimes Task Force.