BROOKLYN (CN) – Seven people behind Rentboy.com, the world’s largest male escort website, were arrested Tuesday and charged with operating a multimillion-dollar “Internet brothel.”
After a raid on the website’s main offices in Manhattan, the site’s founder, Jeffrey Hurant, 50, and six others were arrested and arraigned in Brooklyn Federal Court.
They face up to five years in prison and fines of up to $250,000 if convicted of sex trafficking.
Federal authorities also seized more than $1.4 million from six bank accounts, and froze the domain name www.rentboy.com .
“Rentboy.com attempted to present a veneer of legality, when in fact this Internet brothel made millions of dollars from the promotion of illegal prostitution,” Kelly Currie, acting U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York, said in a statement.
The site, founded in 1997, pulled in over $10 million between 2010 and 2015, feds said.
Subscribers paid a minimum monthly fee of about $60 to set up profiles and search through escorts’ profiles to find the “sexual services they are willing to perform and the price charged,” authorities said.
Insistence from the site’s executives that Rentboy.com is not an escort service failed to move New York Police Department Commissioner Bill Bratton.
“Rentboy.com profited from the promotion of prostitution despite their claim that their advertisements were not for sexual services,” Bratton said in a statement. “These individuals will be held accountable for running this racket.”
The bust is set against a series of sexual dust-ups in recent weeks.
At lease one federal class action was filed in Los Angeles against the cheating website, Ashley Madison, after a group of hackers culled its database and exposed the identities of its 37 million subscribers.
Earlier this month, delegates with Amnesty International’s decisionmaking body, International Council, met in Dublin and voted to adopt a 13-point manifesto that provides the “highest possible protection of the human rights of sex workers.”
Back in Manhattan, police chief Bratton is also at loggerheads and generating tabloid fodder in his ongoing fight to rid Times Square of topless buskers.
The Rentboy.com raid resulted in six others along with Hurant. These individuals are Michael Sean Belman, 47; Clint Calero, 48; Edward Lorenz Estanol, 23; Shane Lukas, 41; Diana Milagros Mattos, 43; and Marco Soto Decker, 28. All are from Manhattan.
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