DOJ shutters site alleged to promote male prostitution

DOJ shutters site alleged to promote male prostitution

The chief executive of Rentboy.com and six employees running the website were arrested Tuesday and charged with promoting prostitution under the federal Travel Act. 

The Department of Justice also plans to seize $1.4 million from the company’s bank accounts and has taken steps to shutter the website, which it describes as the "largest online male escort service." By Tuesday afternoon, users could not access the site. 

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CEO Jeffrey Hurant and his employees could face up to five years in prison and fines of a quarter of a million dollars each if convicted. The charges were brought in the Eastern District of New York. 

In the past, the website described itself as an “ad listing service” rather than an escort agency. It contains thousands of paid advertisements “connecting you to quality men since 1996.” The Justice Department said subscribers were charged a minimum $59.95 per month to advertise on the site, which include prices and other descriptions of services.  

The company brought in $10 million in proceeds in the last five years and contained listings from around the world, according to the Justice Department. 

According to a cached version of the site, users must agree to terms of service before entering the site that read: “This site may not be used for the advertising of sexual services or to engage in activities requiring the payment of money for sex or other illegal activities.”

The company’s disclaimer is largely a diversion, according to the Justice Department, which said the site is “designed primarily for advertising illegal prostitution.” The promotion of prostitution across state lines or international borders is a federal crime. 

“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,” Acting U.S Attorney Kelly Currie said in a statement