The four alleged owners of a website which publishes photos of people taken soon after they have been arrested, have been arrested themselves.
The alleged owners of the mugshots.com website have been accused of extortion and a variety of other crimes.
The US-based site asks anyone wanting to have their image removed to hand over a substantial payment.
It generated more than $2m (£1.5m) from people keen to get images removed, said California’s Attorney General.
“This pay-for-removal scheme attempts to profit off of someone else’s humiliation,” said Attorney General Xavier Becerra in a statement.
“Those who can’t afford to pay into this scheme to have their information removed pay the price when they look for a job, housing, or try to build relationships with others,” he said.
Images were only removed if people depicted on mugshots.com paid fees, said the statement, even though many had the charges against them dismissed or had been mistakenly arrested. More than 5,700 people paid to have their image removed from the site.
“This is exploitation, plain and simple,” added Mr Becarra. The California Attorney General’s office encouraged anyone who paid to get their image “de-published” to contact it with more details.
The four men charged are Thomas Keesee, Kishore Vidya Bhavnanie, David Usdan and Sahar Sarid.
As well as extortion, the four are charged with money laundering and identity theft. Mr Usdan, Mr Keesee and Mr Bhavnanie are currently in police custody.
In a statement posted to his personal site, Mr Sarid said his involvement with the site ended in 2013 after he had completed some consultancy work for it.
It is not clear what will happen to the mugshots.com site in the wake of its owners being arrested and charged. The site is still currently operating.
US mugshot website owners face criminal charges