For the first time Friday, victims of a man who ran a “revenge porn” website shared their stories, describing how the cyber-exploitation changed their lives.
After an all-day sentencing hearing in a San Diego courtroom where victims shared their experiences, Kevin Bollaert was sentenced to 18 years in prison for identity theft and extortion after posting more than 10,000 sexually explicit photos of women to his so-called “revenge porn” website.
A group of Bollaert’s victims were flown to San Diego from across the country to be involved in the prosecution and ultimately, his sentencing.
Bollaert was convicted of running a website that allowed the anonymous posting of nude photos of women plus their private information without their permission. Bollaert also ran another website where the victims could pay him hundreds of dollars to take down the embarrassing content posted on the first site.
Nicole Coco, of Pennsylvania, was one of the victims who testified in court.
“Justice has been served and I’m very thankful for this,” said Coco.
For Coco, the ordeal began when she checked her Facebook page one morning and saw vulgar messages from strangers. She said she went to her local police department twice, but not much was done.
“I got the photos removed once. The second time they were like, ‘We’ll try and try again.’ They thought it was my fault, and it was a lot of victim shaming,” said Coco.
Coco said that when a California Department of Justice official reached out to her in regards to criminal charges against Bollaert, that was the first time she was told and felt the situation wasn’t her fault.
“It was amazing because I blamed myself for a long time before that,” she said.
Coco said, before becoming aware of the prosecution of Bollaert, she was so traumatized by the experience she tried to commit suicide.
Megan Borash, of Denver, is another victim of Bollaert and his websites.
“When that guilty verdict came in, you know what? I took a stand. [I knew] what I did was not wrong. I am not ashamed of what I did,” she said.
When asked what the sentencing means to hear, Borash said, “It means a lot. Huge weight off my shoulder. I’m out here talking to you, gave you my information. Ask me yesterday, you wouldn’t have gotten it. It’s time for me to take my life back and start living.”
NBC 7 spoke to criminal defense attorney and former prosecutor Tony Solare who explained what’s commonly known as “revenge porn” cases can be difficult to prosecute.
“It’s hard to prove someone did the act if they did it through a computer. Unless you can prove someone did it with that IP address they can say I didn’t do this. I can sit here and think of a million ways people can commit this crime without getting caught,” he said.
Solare and other legal experts tell NBC 7 Bollaert’s crimes were particularly blatant. Most others are not. Also, Bollaert’s website involved extorting money from victims, which took his case to another level.
Solare explained resources to investigate and prosecute these kinds of crimes is an area of concern as well.
“As far as the volume of [cyber-exploitation crimes] I’m sure [investigators] are woefully understaffed as far as what’s out there,” he said.
He added there are things you should do if you think you’re a victim of cyber exploitation.
“If you have a situation like that, you want to sit down and write a detailed account of what occurred, who did it, why you think they did it, what information you can have to specifically tie the bad act to the person you think did it and how you found out about it. Because the more information someone has, the more law enforcement has, the more they have to look into it. The other thing to do is to not delay in reporting something like this because any delay in reporting of any crime creates any problem for prosecution,” advised Solare.
Bollaert is expected to serve at least half of his prison sentenced. He was also ordered to pay $10,000 in restitution.