"I don't think we do anything to promote prostitution," said CEO Jeffrey Hurant
Seven people have been arrested following a raid on the New York City headquarters of Rentboy.com, the largest online male escort service, officials said Tuesday.
CEO Jeffrey Hurant, 50, and six other current and former employees appeared in court on Tuesday afternoon on charges of promoting prostitution, according to a press release from the United States Attorney’s Office.
Though Rentboy.com features disclaimers stating that the site’s advertisements are only for companionship and not sexual services, prosecutors said that the site directly facilitates meetings with escorts.
“As alleged, 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,” stated Acting United States Attorney Kelly T. Currie.
Escorts reportedly pay up to several hundred dollars to advertise their services on the site, which charges subscribers a minimum monthly fee of $59.95, according to the criminal complaint.
Once they’ve signed up, escorts can choose from a number of categories detailing what sexual services they’re willing to provide. They can also include physical descriptions and links to another website where their services are rated by customers.
Charles Hochbaum, a lawyer for Hurant, told reporters outside court that the case represented a First Amendment issue, The New York Times reports.
“My client advertises for people who are willing to be escorts, to accompany people for their time and be paid,” he said, adding: “He’s upset and confused about how this legitimate business could become the subject of a Homeland Security investigation.”
For his part, Hurant maintained his innocence, telling reporters: “I don’t think we do anything to promote prostitution.
“I think we do good things for good people, and bring good people together.”
The seven people charged have not yet entered official pleas to the charges.
As of Wednesday morning, the site Rentboy.com was not loading.
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