Jan 31, 2013 11:43 PM by Eric Ross
Imagine getting phone calls and friend requests on Facebook from people across the nation you don't know. After doing some research, you find out your personal photographs are posted on what police are calling "revenge porn" web sites.
It's the new wave of cyber bullying sweeping the nation and as News 5 uncovers, a Colorado Springs man is behind one of the largest "revenge porn" sites in the country.
Victims News 5 spoke with are desperate for help in getting their pictures removed, mainly because their photos are being linked to their personal cell phone number and social media profiles.
While it may sound like a cruel way to damage someone's life, the big question is whether this activity is legal.
IsAnyBodyDown.com is a site all too familiar for a woman we'll call "Emma". For her protection, we're hiding her identity and disguising her voice. After responding to a dating ad on Craigslist and sending images to a person she intended to meet, "Emma" soon realized she had been part of an elaborate scam.
"I started asking questions and that's when I found out my images were on this web site," she said.
Her cell phone number and Facebook page were attached to her private pictures. Soon after they were uploaded onto the site, she began receiving phone calls and friend requests from people she had never seen before. It's a nightmare which continues to this day.
"I worry everyday whether somebody on the street has seen me online and I can't even look people in the eye because I don't know who has seen me," she said. "It's frightening."
We found several more victims in the Springs area, dozens throughout the region and hundreds more across the nation.
For weeks, News 5 has been calling victims, all of whom say they had either been tricked into sending photos through an online dating scam, or exploited by an ex-boyfriend or girlfriend seeking revenge.
Craig Brittain, 28, is the face behind IsAnyBodyDown.com. News 5 has sent Brittain emails and called at least a half dozen times within the last month for comment.
We have also reached out to Brittain via text messages, but he's only given us the run-around since we first began our investigation in December 2012.
To be fair, we went to Brittain's last known address in Briargate, 2732 Kittyhawk Road. We left a note on the door for Brittain to call us, but we have yet to hear anything back from him.
"I'm very surprised that this type of site is here in Colorado Springs," attorney Gordon Vaughan said.
Vaughan has studied similar cases in the past involving "revenge porn" sites. While he can't speak on criminal terms, he says victims might be able to file a civil case against Brittain and his web site.
"These were images that were intended for private use between two people that were in a relationship," he said. "There was never any intent for those images to find their way onto the Internet."
As we found out, every state has it's own rules when it comes to regulating web sites.
"Colorado has recognized privacy rights," Vaughan said. "One (privacy right) is the protection of private information that would arguably include private images. Colorado also recognizes a tort called outrageous conduct and that might fit as well."
However, a criminal case will be much more difficult to pursue. Sergeant Bill Dehart with the Colorado Springs Police Department says it's hard to build a case because the images have either been uploaded anonymously or have been sent in by ex-lovers from around the country. He also adds that the photos on this particular site appear to be of men and women of legal age.
Brittain even posts a legal disclaimer on his web site, warning computer users that anyone under the age of 18 may not view the site. On the surface, it appears he has covered all the legal bases.
Victims on the site are even told they can have their images removed for $250 by contacting "The Takedown Hammer," an alleged New York Public Defender named David Blade III.
After doing further research, 5 Uncovers there's no such attorney.
Furthermore, the lawyer site and revenge porn site have the same IP address and are hosted by the same web server. This points to both sites running on the same computer or network system.
"If someone comes in and says 'I've contacted the site and they're (IsAnyBodyDown.com) telling me to contact an attorney in New york to take it down (for money),' it sounds like extortion."
Vaughan says it's also criminal impersonation.
News 5 asked Vaughan, "Do you have to be an attorney to offer legal services?"
Vaughan said, "In most cases, yes."
If it's proven Brittain is indeed pretending to be a lawyer and collecting money to remove photos on the site he owns, he could face criminal charges. It's an investigation victims like "Emma" hope will be launched sooner than later.
"I put myself in a very compromising situation that I don't think will ever go away," she said. "Somebody out there will always have a copy of those images."
While Brittain has been in trouble with the law before, there is no current investigation into his site. However, victims we spoke with are hoping the Colorado Springs Police Department and 4th Judicial District Attorney's Office will take a closer look into this site in the near future.
Stay with News 5 and KOAA.com for any new developments on this story.
If you have a news tip or investigative story you'd like us to check into, contact Eric Ross at eross@Koaa.com.