A Cook County man has filed a class action lawsuit against two Texas companies after his name and booking picture appeared on the website bustedmugshots.com.
Scott Dolemba claims the website caused him harm because a link to a webpage on bustedmugshots.com regarding his encounter with police, as well as his mug shot, began appearing on google.com whenever a person would query his name.
He filed the suit Sept. 26 in Chicago’s federal court against Citizens Information Associates LLC and Start Nine Ventures Inc., along with their respective owners. The Texas-based businesses operate the websites bustedmugshots.com and mugshotsonline.com.
“The display by defendants of images is intended, among other things, to subject the subject to hatred, contempt, or ridicule, or to damage the subject’s personal or business repute, or to impair the subject’s credit,” Daniel A. Edelman, Dolemba’s attorney in Chicago, wrote in the complaint.
Bustedmugshots.com displays the name, age, sex, and the arrest date and location of individuals in their system on their website. To see a mug shot and further details, a person must pay bustedmugshots.com.
However, bustedmugshots.com will remove mug shots and other related information for free within 15 days if the subject of the mug shot is found not guilty, the charges were dismissed or dropped, his or her record was expunged, he or she was a minor at the time of the arrest, or if the person is dead.
A person that fits in those categories can pay $80 for a rush removal, the suit states, adding that someone who does not fit into any of those categories can also pay to have their information removed – $98 for a standard removal or $178 for a rush removal.
Dolemba’s payment of $98 on Sept. 12 to have his information removed from the site is at the crux of the suit, which alleges violations of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act and the Illinois Consumer Fraud Act.
Dolemba claims Kyle Prall and Ryan Russell, the two owners of bustedmugshots.com, and Citizens Information Associates extorted money from him for the removal of his information from their website.
“Prall and Russell conducted the affairs of [Citizens Information Associates] through a pattern of violations of 720 ILCS 5/12-6, which violations constitute “extortion” as defined in RICO, when they published embarrassing information about arrests on the Internet and then obtained “fees” for its removal,” Edelman wrote in the suit.
Dolemba is seeking treble damages, attorneys’ fees, litigation expenses, costs of suits and any further relief the court deems proper on behalf of him and a subclass, which consists of people who’ve paid to have their information removed from bustedmugshots.com and mugshotsonline.com during the past four years.
Dolemba’s consumer fraud count alleges that the defendants violated Illinois law by publishing embarrassing information about their arrest online then offering to remove it for a fee.
“Defendants engaged in such conduct in the course of trade and commerce in Illinois,” Edelman wrote in the suit. “Defendants engaged in such conduct for the purpose of obtaining money from Illinois residents, and inflicting harm on them in order to coerce them to pay money.”
On this count, Dolemba is seeking appropriate compensatory and punitive damages, an injunction against further violations, attorney’s fees, litigation expenses, costs of suit and any further relief the court deems proper on behalf of himself and the class.
Dolemba's suit also names 10 John Does as potential defendants.