• Action 9 investigates online mug shot reputation companies


    SEMINOLE COUNTY, Fla. - A Seminole County woman was cleared of all criminal charges, but now she can't erase her online mug shot unless she pays.

    Anyone who is arrested may have to pay hundreds of dollars to so-called reputation companies, but there's no guarantee the damaging photos disappear.

    An online search reveals a painful chapter in Laura Booker's past. You'll find her mug shot after she was arrested, accused of trespassing and resisting arrest after confronting a school bus driver she claimed didn’t protect her child from bullies.

    Later, the state dropped all charges, but Booker’s attempt to erase her  mug shots on several private websites failed.

    "When will it really end? When is enough enough?” Booker asked.

    Booker has found many online reputation firms that claims it can remove anyone's mug shot for a price.

    "It's greed. It's wrong, and it's frustrating,” she said.

    Critics said sites that post mug shots have a cozy relationship with the reputation companies that charge to remove them.

    FloridaArrests.org, which posts thousands of booking shots, was created by Rob Wiggins in Winter Park. But Wiggins wouldn’t tell Wired.com how much he collected from reputation firms to erase images or what their relationship was.

    Image Max promises to remove mug shots for several hundred dollars.

    Todd Ulrich: “Do you pay sites to take down those mug shots?"

    Image Max representative: “No, it's a trade secret that our legal department deals with."       

    Even strong defenders of Florida's open records laws that allow photo access condemn the money-for-mug shots practice.

    Attorney Chad Cronon teaches legal studies at the University of Central Florida. He said right now, state law allows it.

    "As it stands now, technology moves very quickly, and the legislature seems to have not caught up with that,” he said.

    Even if someone pays a fee, there's no guarantee the mug shot won't reappear later.

    "No, it's not right," said Booker.

    Robert Wiggins recently sold his mug shot website to a company in Panama. It did not return WFTV’s calls.

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