A San Diego man who ran a “revenge porn” website on which he posted nude photos and personal information and then charged his victims to remove them was sentenced on Friday to 18 years in state prison.
In February, 28-year-old Kevin Bollaert was convicted in San Diego Superior Court of 21 counts of identity theft and six counts of extortion for running two websites which served as a forum for public shaming.
Bollaert’s case marked the first time a person had been tried for running a revenge porn ring in the United States.
1. The moment a revenge porn site operator breaks down in tears at his trial.
People’s nude pictures, as well as personal information about them, were posted anonymously and without their consent by jilted lovers and hackers on a website Bollaert created and ran, called ugotposted.com.
In all, more than 10,000 pictures, mostly of women, were posted on Bollaert’s website between December 2012 and September 2013.
People who wanted to have their embarrassing images removed were taken to the other site Bollaert ran — changemyreputation.com — where they were charged $250 to $350 each to remove them.
2. In a first-of-its-kind ruling, Bollaert was sentenced to 18 years for running a “revenge porn” site, publishing nude and embarrassing photos of women sent in anonymously by people wanting to hurt them.
Bollaert’s victims included teachers, wives and professional women.
The compromising images have cost people their jobs, ruined relationships and led to at least one attempted suicide.
Bollaert earned about $900 a month in ad revenue from his website and collected about $30,000 from his victims.
His lawyer had argued at the trial that, although the business was gross and offensive, Bollaert didn’t break the law by permitting others to post the explicit images. Emily Rose-Weber said:
It’s gross, it’s offensive, but it’s not illegal.
3. In spite of the thousands of emails he got begging to have photos taken down, Bollaert told investigators it was his life that had been ruined by the site.
The prosecution, however, argued that Bollaert terrorized women and enjoyed doing it.
In addition to the nude images, Bollaert would publish the names, addresses, as well as social media details of the people pictured in them.
Many of Bollaert’s victims were flooded with harassing messages from strangers as a result.
Investigators revealed that Bollaert had received thousands of distressed emails from his victims, one of whom said she was “scared for my life”, while another said she’d been “getting nonstop harassing messages”.
4. Some of the victims appeared in court, anonymously, to read victim impact statements. Many said their lives had been irrevocably ruined by Bollaert and his site.
The criminal complaint listed more than two dozen people as victims of the revenge porn ring. One of them claimed that she was thrown out of her home after her family learned of nude pictures posted of her. She testified:
It ruined my life and I’m still going through it. I lost my family. They think that I brought shame on them. My reputation is ruined.
Others read victim impact statements in person in court, NBC San Diego reports.
5. Kevin Bollaert, 28, was facing 20 years after being found guilty of extortion and identity theft for running a despicable scheme for victims to pay to have their images removed from his revenge porn site.
One of Bollaert’s victims said:
It’s just broken me on a level that’s not describable. The only thing I have left is shame and anger.
In an interview with agents from the California Department of Justice’s eCrime Unit, Bollaert explained that the site was “just, like, ruining my life”, Mashable reports.
According to the complaint, Bollaert said:
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.
6. In an unprecedented criminal case, Kevin Bollaert was found guilty of posting sexually explicit photos of women online to extort them — an NBC San Diego report.
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