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Revenge porn and extortion scheme uncovered in California

California's attorney general Kamala Harris announced charges Tuesday against the alleged operator of a revenge porn site. Damian Dovarganes / AP file

A California man was charged Tuesday with running a nationwide revenge porn site — and a second website used to extort tens of thousands of dollars from victims desperate to have their pictures removed, officials said.

Kevin Bollaert, 27, the alleged co-founder of ugotposted.com and changemyreputation.com, was arrested after a five-month probe and hit with 31 counts of conspiracy and other felonies. His attorney could not be reached for comment.

But court papers say he told an investigator he knew "lives are getting ruined."

"I feel bad about the whole thing and like I just don't want to do it anymore," the San Diego man allegedly said.

The first site allowed users to post sexually explicit photos of people without their permission, and required them to include the victim's full name, location, age and Facebook profile, prosecutors said.

That would typically trigger a torrent of harassing calls and messages. Once a victim realized the barrage stemmed from a photo on the site, they would email a complaint.

"Please help!! I am scared for my life!"one woman's message read, according to court documents.

"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."

The site would then direct victims to changemyreputation.com, which offered to remove the pictures for a fee of up to $350, prosecutors said.

California Attorney General Kamala Harris said forensic investigators discovered tens of thousands of dollars in payments to a PayPal account linked to email for the site.

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

Court papers detailed the victims' torments, which were laid bare in their emails to the site.

One woman said she got 100 calls and had to change her phone number. Others were sent lewd photos by strangers.

"My phone has been going off every two minutes with strange men sending inappropriate things to me. It's disgusting," a victim wrote.

Another reported, "I am getting nonstop harassing messages from people who have seen me on here...Why others can ruin lives like this is beyond me."

Bollaert owned the website with another man, who has not been arrested. Harris' office declined comment on whether he will face charges, too.

Activists nationwide have been trying to get states to crack down on revenge porn — dubbed that because the perpetrators are often angry ex-boyfriends or husbands, although some victims have had their computers hacked.

In October, California passed a law making it a misdemeanor to post nude photos of someone else online without their permission with the intent of causing emotional distress or humiliation. A conviction could result in six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.

New Jersey has a similar law and measures are under consideration in Florida, Texas, Wisconsin and Georgia.

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