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Sites threaten to 'expose' people not on sex offender registry

Many people who have been convicted of a sex crime in Michigan are required to have their name, address and other personal information included in a registry. Authorities say the sex offender registry protects the public from people who some politicians say are likely to reoffend.

But many Michigan residents have found themselves the targets of two men in another state who threaten to "expose" them on the Internet -- even if the victims are no longer on the sex crimes registry or never were. The men are accused of extorting money out of people in exchange for taking their personal data off of a pair of websites. They have demanded up to $499 to take innocent people off their sites.

Many people listed on their websites were never charged or arrested for a sex crime. Among those "outed" on the websites are a person who bought a house that was previously owned by someone on that state's sex offender list.

In other cases, the websites present information about people who used to be on the registry but have been removed due to changes in the law or court order. One Michigan man was convicted of statutory rape for having sex with his 15-year-old girlfriend when he was 19. He formerly was on the state's sex offender list but the law changed in 2011 so that such "Romeo and Juliet" cases are no longer reason to be on the list.

Still, the man has been on the sites for more than a year. The sites' operators have sent him and others in his situation threatening emails and demanded payment to remove his name, he says.

Though extortion is illegal in Michigan and in Arizona, where the website operators live, they have yet to be criminally charged. However, some people wrongfully included on the sites have filed a lawsuit against them.

Source: Great Falls Tribune, "Local man fights back: Sex-offender data used to collect and intimidate," Robert Anglen, May 30, 2013

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