A San Diego man who operated a ‘revenge porn’ website and then charged victims to remove nude images and their personal information was sentenced Friday to 18 years in state prison, the attorney general’s office said.
Kevin Bollaert, 28, was convicted in February of 21 counts of identity theft and six counts of extortion in San Diego Superior Court for running a pair of websites that capitalized on the internet as a forum for public shaming.
The landmark case was the first time a person had been tried for a running revenge porn ring in the United States.
Jilted lovers and hackers could anonymously post nude photos of people without their consent, along with personal information about them, at a website Bollaert created and moderated, called ugotposted.com.
More than 10,000 images, mainly of women, were posted between December 2012 and September 2013.
People who sought to have the explicit images taken down were directed to changemyreputation.com and charged $250 to $350 to remove the racy content.
Victims included teachers, wives and professionals.
The compromising photos cost people jobs, damaged relationships and led to one attempted suicide.
Bollaert earned about $900 a month in website ad revenue and collected about $30,000 from victims.
Bollaert’s lawyer had claimed at trial that the business was gross and offensive, but he didn’t break the law by allowing others to post the explicit material.
‘It’s gross, it’s offensive, but it’s not illegal,’ Emily Rose-Weber said.
But the prosecution said Bollaert terrorized women and enjoyed doing it.
Not only would he the photos, but the names, addresses and social media details of the people in them.
Many victims were inundated with harassing messages from strangers.
Investigators found that Bollaert received thousands of distressed emails from victims, one who said she was ‘scared for my life’ and another who said she’d been ‘getting nonstop harassing messages.’
The criminal complaint named more than two dozen people as victims, one of whom claimed she was thrown out of her home after her family found out nude photos had been posted of her.
‘It ruined my life and I’m still going through it,’ she testified. ‘I lost my family. They think that I brought shame on them. My reputation is ruined.’
Some of the women read victim impact statements in court, according to NBC San Diego.
One victim said: ‘It’s just broken me on a level that’s not describable. The only thing I have left is shame and anger.’
Mashable reported that Bollaert, in an interview with agents from the California Department of Justice’s eCrime Unit, explained the site was ‘just, like, ruining my life.’
‘Yeah, I realize like this is not a good situation,’ Bollaert said according to the complaint. ‘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,’ he said.
The trial of Hunter Moore, called ‘the most hated man on the Internet’ for running isanyoneup.com, is yet to go before court.
Source: Daily Mail UK