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Sunday, March 23, 2014

Websites that Copied Data from 50 States Official Sex Offender Registries Claiming They Were an Alert Service but Then Extorted Money from the Offenders Pocketed Up to $35,000 per Month.

 
Scrutiny suspends websites' dealings

A shadowy network of Arizona-based Internet companies that used public records to demand money from sex offenders and harass those who complained has imploded amid lawsuits, court hearings and new standards enacted by banks, social media and technology companies. 

The websites, including Offendex.com, SORArchives and Sexoffenderrecord.com, in November stopped seeking payments from people in exchange for removing profiles, blaming the change on "many conflicts, threats, unreasonable requests and false accusations about this website." 

The move followed decisions by MasterCard, Visa, Discover and PayPal to stop processing transactions from what many describe as extortion websites. Google also changed its formula to prevent sites from using search-engine algorithms to increase viewership and monetize on public records such as police mugshots. 

A Call 12 for Action investigation, published in May, found that the Arizona-based sex-offender sites mined data compiled by law-enforcement agencies across the country and used it to collect money. Operators of the sites did not always take down profiles after payments were made and launched online harassment campaigns against those who balked at financial demands or filed complaints. 

The investigation found the websites listed individuals as sex offenders who no longer were required to register or whose names had been removed from sex-offender databases. The sites also included names and personal information of people who had never been arrested or convicted of a sex crime. 

In an interview with Call 12 for Action last month, website operator Brent Oesterblad accused owner Charles "Chuck" Rodrick of taking elaborate steps to conceal his ownership of the websites and misleading state and federal judges about it. Oesterblad's comments were backed by court testimony and banking records. 

"I have personal knowledge that Rodrick has misrepresented the facts of his ownership of the sex-offender websites to his former wife, to the Maricopa County Superior Court and to U.S. District Courts in California and Arizona," Oesterblad said in a affidavit filed last month in federal court.