“Revenge porn” operator busted over extortion allegations

Nightmare scenario sees charges that man extorted money from victims after his site posted their pictures

The California-based operator of a revenge porn website who posted more than 10,000 sexually explicit photos and then allegedly tried to extort victims for as much as $350 each to remove the content is sitting in a San Diego jail today with $50,000 bail and possible jail time hanging over his head.

According to California Attorney General Kamala Harris, Christopher Bollaert, 27, of San Diego, was arrested by California Department of Justice agents and according to documents filed in San Diego County Superior Court, has been charged with 31 felony counts of conspiracy, identity theft and extortion.

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Court documents allege that, in December 2012, Bollaert created the website ugotposted.com, which allows 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, according to the attorney general's office.

Court documents also allege that 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 allegedly extort victims by replying with a changemyreputation.com email address and offering to remove the content for a fee ranging from $299.99 to $350, which could be paid using an online PayPal account referenced in the emails.

Ballaert allegedly told investigators, according to court documents, 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 tens of thousands of dollars, according to the attorney general's office.

"This website published intimate photos of unsuspecting victims and turned their public humiliation and betrayal into a commodity with the potential to devastate lives," Attorney General Harris said in a statement. "Online predators that profit from the extortion of private photos will be investigated and prosecuted for this reprehensible and illegal Internet activity."

In October California signed into law one of the nation's first laws making "revenge porn" illegal.  Specifically the bill prevents people from "electronically distributing or post naked pictures of ex-romantic partners after a break-up with designs shaming the person publically."

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From the bill: "This bill would provide that any person who photographs or records by any means the image of the intimate body part or parts of another identifiable person, under circumstances where the parties agree or understand that the image shall remain private, and the person subsequently distributes the image taken, with the intent to cause serious emotional distress, and the depicted person suffers serious emotional distress, is guilty of disorderly conduct and subject to that same punishment.  A first violation of that offense is punishable by imprisonment in a county jail not exceeding 6 months, or by a fine not exceeding $1,000, or by both that fine and imprisonment, and  a 2nd or subsequent violation of that offense, or any violation of that offense in which the victim was, at the time of the offense, a minor, is punishable by imprisonment in a county jail not exceeding one year, or by a fine not exceeding $2,000, or by both that fine and imprisonment."

"Until now, there was no tool for law enforcement to protect victims," said Sen. Anthony Cannella (R-Ceres), who sponsored the legislation.  "Too many have had their lives upended because of an action of another that they trusted."

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