by: Carl Willis Updated:ATLANTA —
Dozens of websites are profiting from displaying mug shots of people who haven’t been convicted of a crime.
Thousands of Georgians, including those who have only committed traffic violations, are getting their mug shots splashed all over the Internet. That includes business owner Godwin Akpobiyeri, who has built his moving company with hard work and his reputation.
Akpobiyeri said it's troubling having every potential customer just one click away from seeing a mug shot.
"Something like this can break all your hard work down in a minute," said Akpobiyeri.
He was arrested and booked for driving without his license in 2005. He showed Channel 2 reporter Carl Willis documentation detailing how he worked to expunge the case.
The Gwinnett County Police Department doesn’t even have a criminal record on file for him because of the low level of his offense.
"They just told me I have no criminal record, so there's nothing to expunge," he said.
Still, his mug shot is available for all to see, right next to people accused of everything from fraud to murder.
Akpobiyeri said he was told he'd have to pay a fee that can range from around $70 to $400 to get his photo removed.
"If you pay for one, you have to pay for two," he said.
Willis found Akpobiyeri's mug shot on at least two separate sites. Each of them required a fee in most instances to take down the mug shot.
The Internet is filled with sites with similar setups. One of them was dedicated solely to "online reputation repair."
"It was fast and simple and it only cost me $399," said a representative on the site.
One site displayed a disclaimer on its page that reads, "All are presumed innocent until proven guilty."
They also reference the First Amendment and the freedom to publish any truthful and factual content.
"Even though it's public record, there should be a way they can filter the good from the bad," said Akpobiyeri.
Willis learned that at least one metro Atlanta Sheriff's Office is investigating the practice as extortion.