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Attorney General Kamala D. Harris Issues Statement on Cyber-Exploitation Verdict
LOS ANGELES – Attorney General Kamala D. Harris issued the following statement on the San Diego Superior Court verdict in People v. Bollaert. Kevin Bollaert, the operator of a cyber-exploitation website posting nude photos of individuals without their consent, was found guilty on 6 counts of extortion and 21 counts of identity theft. This is the first criminal prosecution of a cyber-exploitation (otherwise known as “revenge porn”) website operator.
“Bollaert’s actions are illegal and they will not be tolerated in California. And if you run a website like this, you’re going to go to prison. Just because you’re sitting behind a computer, committing what is essentially a cowardly and criminal act, you will not be shielded from the law or jail,” said Attorney General Harris. “Crime that focuses on the most vulnerable and voiceless are some of the most horrendous crimes. The result of this conduct was to make people feel shame and embarrassment in the context of their family, their community, and their workplace. “
In December 2013, Attorney General Harris announced the arrest of Kevin Christopher Bollaert, 27, of San Diego, who operated the cyber-exploitation website ugotposted.com. He was charged with 31 felony counts of conspiracy, identity theft and extortion.
An investigation conducted by Attorney General Harris and the Department of Justice found that from December 2012 to approximately September 2013, Bollaert created the website ugotposted.com, which allowed the anonymous, public posting of private photographs containing nude and explicit images of individuals without their permission. Commonly known as revenge porn, the photos are typically obtained consensually by the poster during a prior relationship or are stolen or hacked. Unlike many other revenge porn websites where the subject of the photos is anonymous, ugotposted.com required that the poster include the subject’s full name, location, age and Facebook profile link. As a result, the victims experienced severe harassment through social media, at their places of work and in other communities.
Bollaert created a second website, changemyreputation.com, in October 2012, which he used when individuals contacted ugotposted.com requesting that content be removed from the site. Bollaert would extort victims by replying with a changemyreputation.com email address and offering to remove the content for a fee ranging from $250 to $350, which could be paid using an online PayPal account referenced in the emails. Bollaert told investigators that he made around $900 per month from advertising on the site and records obtained from his changemyreputation.com PayPal account indicate that he received payments totaling approximately $30,000.
California Penal Code sections 530.5 and 653m (b) make it illegal to willfully obtain someone’s personal identifying information, including name, age and address, for any unlawful purpose, including with the intent to annoy or harass. California Penal Code section 520 makes it illegal to commit the crime of extortion, which includes obtaining money through the threat to reveal a victim’s secret.
Bollaert’s arrest arose from a six-month investigation by the California Attorney General’s eCrime unit. Attorney General Harris created the eCrime Unit in 2011 to identify and prosecute identity theft crimes, cybercrimes and other crimes involving the use of technology.
In February 2014, Attorney General Harris announced the arrest of Casey E. Meyering, 28, of Tulsa, Oklahoma, who operated the website WinByState.com. he was charged with 5 felony extortion counts and is currently awaiting trial on February 23, 2015.