A 27-year-old California man has been arrested on multiple felony charges for his alleged involvement with running a so-called revenge porn website.
In October, California became the first US state to pass a bill specifically outlawing the practice of posting nude photos of people without their permission. But the language of that law only applies to those who upload photos to revenge porn sites, not the people who run them.
Instead, Kevin Bollaert of San Diego has been charged with a total of 31 felony counts of a much more traditional nature – including conspiracy, extortion, and identity theft.
The criminal complaint against Bollaert, filed on Tuesday in a California Superior Court in San Diego, alleges that he conspired "with another person and persons whose identity is unknown" to operate UGotPosted.com, a site dedicated to posting compromising photos that Bollaert obtained without the subjects' permission.
In addition, Bollaert is accused of operating another site, ChangeMyReputation.com, which he would allegedly use to try to charge the victims fees to have their images removed from UGotPosted.com.
It's alleged that, to give the victims additional incentive to pay up, if they didn't hand over the cash Bollaert would post their full names, addresses, phone numbers, email addresses, and links to their Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and other social media accounts alongside the compromising images on the smut site.
As a result, many of the victims – each identified only as "Jane Doe" in the complaint – received countless harassing phone calls, text messages, and unwanted social media friend requests.
In at least one case, the victim claims that someone accessed her Facebook account and sent her nude pictures to her relatives.
In another case, the victim apparently didn't recognize that she was being intentionally targeted by UGotPosted.com and wrote to the site's email address begging for the operators' assistance in removing her photos:
PLEASE HELP! I am scared for my life! People are calling my workplace 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!
Two of the victims told law enforcement that they paid ChangeMyReputation.com $249.99 to have their photos removed from the revenge porn site. Others are believed to have paid more. But in cases where the targets wouldn't pay, Bollaert apparently told investigators that he was making roughly $800-900 per month in advertising fees.
Although it's not known how much Bollaert may have allegedly profited from the operating in all, it's believed to be in excess of $10,000. Server logs obtained for the website suggest that photos of some 10,170 separate people were published to UGotPosted.com between December 2, 2012 and September 17, 2013.
When asked if he understood what UGotPosted.com was doing to the people involved, Bollaert reportedly told investigators, "Yeah, I realize like this is not a good situation. 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."
Ironically, he also told investigators that he had shut the site down voluntarily, saying, "at the beginning, it was fun and entertaining, but now it's just like ruining my life."
That seems like an accurate statement. According to a press release by California state attorney general Kamala Harris, Bollaert is being held in San Diego County jail on $50,000 bail, pending trial. ®