By REBEKAH KEARN
LOS ANGELES (CN) - Five Arizona men conspired to extort sex offenders by claiming they will take their names and photos off websites for $500, but leaving the information online whether their victims pay or not, 10 sex offenders claim in a federal RICO complaint.
Eight John Does and two Jane Does sued (PDF) five Arizona men, claiming they use websites to extort money from registered sex offenders, and from sex offenders who no longer have to register.
The defendants are Brent Oesterblad of Paradise Valley, David Oesterblad of Tempe, Chuck Rodrick II, Charles David Gilson, and Traci Heisig, all of Desert Hills.
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"This action challenges defendants' ... conspiracy to violate the RICO Act through a pattern of racketeering activity, including but not limited to extortion of plaintiffs by requiring payment to remove their names, photographs, and/or identifications as 'sex offenders' from multiple websites available to the public," the complaint states.
"This action also challenges defendants' publication of plaintiffs' names and photographs on websites available to the public without plaintiffs' prior consent in violation of the California right of publicity, California Civil Code §3344, as well as defendants' intentional infliction of emotional distress upon plaintiffs."
Plaintiffs say their names and photos have been posted on the websites SORarchives, Offendex and Online Detective, which are not named as parties to the complaint.
But the plaintiffs claim the defendants either own, operate, maintain or work for the three sites, which are accessible by anyone in the United States.
"Defendants' publication of plaintiffs' names and photographs as well as their identification of a sex offender on three public websites is outrageous conduct because it knowingly placed plaintiffs at risk of grave physical harm, even death, unemployment, and homelessness," the complaint states.
Though the websites publish both the John and Jane Does' names and pictures, they list only the John Does as sex offenders, according to the complaint.
Jane Doe No. 9 says she never has committed a sexual crime and is not a sex offender, but lives with her husband, John Doe No. 4, who has not had to register as a sex offender since January this year.
Jane Doe No. 10 says she never committed a sexual crime, but lives with her son, John Doe No. 5, who is not required to register as a sex offender.
"Defendants have conspired to extort money from plaintiffs by requiring each of them to pay for removal of their names and photographs from the 'SORarchives' website," the complaint states. "Plaintiffs have paid defendants to remove this information from the 'SORarchives' website; however, the information continues to be published therein."
The Does claim the defendants also "conspired to extort money from plaintiffs when they required plaintiffs to pay up to $500 for removal of their names and photographs" from Offendex and Online Detective. The plaintiffs say they refused to pay, so the defendants continued to publish their personal information on those sites.
The Does claim the defendants "gained great pecuniary benefit from the unauthorized use of plaintiffs' names and images by using them to build their businesses and promote their services."
The Does acknowledge that their names and photographs are part of the public record, but say this "does not relieve defendants of the obligation to obtain consent from those whose persona they are exploiting for personal gain."
They claim: "The enterprise which has created, operated, and maintained the websites has conducted in racketeering activity due to its extortion of funds from plaintiffs."
And: "Plaintiffs have suffered severe emotional distress, including public humiliation and depression, due to risk of grave physical harm, lost employment opportunities, and inability to obtain adequate housing."
The plaintiffs seek actual, punitive and treble damages for RICO violations, violations of the right of publicity, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
They also want temporary and permanent injunctions and an order "requiring defendants to divest themselves of any interest, direct or indirect, in any website."
They are represented by Janice M. Bellucci of Santa Maria.