Federal prosecutors in Brooklyn have dismissed charges against six employees of rentboy.com.
[UPDATED] February 17, 2016
One week ago today, the breaking news I shared was that former Rentboy CEO Jeffrey Hurant pleaded not guilty to the charges against him for prostitution and money laundering. We also learned a plea deal was in the works.
At the time, how that affected the six other former Rentboy employees named in the original complaint was uncertain,
Today, there’s a breaking, joyful update, as reported by Newsday:
Owner Jeffrey Hurant was indicted last month for promoting prostitution and money laundering. Prosecutors say the site grossed $10 million since 2010, but the arrests triggered criticism that the government was targeting a long-standing gay website over consensual acts.
The government’s motion to dismiss charges against the six employees was filed and agreed to by Magistrate Lois Bloom on Friday, but not docketed until Wednesday.
“Today is a wonderful day,” said Deborah Colson, the lawyer for Michael Sean Belman, one of the six. “Mr. Belman is thrilled with the outcome and looks forward to moving on with his life.”
James Roth, the lawyer for defendant Clint Calero, said, “We are pleased that the government concluded that Mr. Calero’s role as an employee of Rentboy did not warrant a criminal prosecution.”
Those six employees, Shane Lukas (Hawk Kincaid), Marco Decker, Sean Belman (Sean Van Sant), Edward Estanol (Eli Lewis), Diana Milagros Mattos (Coco Lopez), and Clint Calero, will be sleeping well tonight for the first time this happen in August.
I hope we can soon say the same about Jeffrey Hurant.
Original Post: August 25, 2015
Horrible news in the intersecting worlds of porn, porn stars, and hookers today as federal agents in New York stormed into the headquarters of Rentboy.com today arresting seven people and seizing documents and computers, as NBC New York is reporting. The site is already offline.
Despite operating for the last 18 years, since the dawn of the web, basically, in 1997, federal prosecutors have apparently been building a case against Rentboy, a company they say grossed over $10 million between 2010 and 2015.
Charges include money laundering and prostitution, and Kelly Currie. U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, issued a statement saying, “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.”
Also, prosecutors point to the open secret that the place is a hub of prostitution, even though it has always advertised itself as an escort service offering “companionship,” saying that the site even allows Rentboy users to choose the “sexual services they are willing to perform and the price charged.”
The seven people arrested, including CEO Jeffrey Hurant, are charged with conspiring to violate the Travel Act by promotion prostitution, and they’re expected to appear in court later today. The defendants include both “current and former employees” according to PIX 11.
The other workers arrested:
Michael Sean Belman, 47, of New York, N.Y.
Clint Calero, 48, of New York, N.Y.
Edward Lorenz Estanol (a.k.a. Eli Lewis), 23, of New York N.Y.
Shane Lukas, 41, of New York, N.Y.
Diana Milagros Mattos (a.k.a. Coco Lopez), 43, of Queens, N.Y.
Marco Soto Decker, 28, of New York, N.Y.
They could all face up to five years in prison.
Meanwhile, Rentboys across the nation and the world are crying, and scrambling to get their client lists together in the absence of the wildly popular service.
Update: The Wall Street Journal has picked up the story, reporting that Hurant’s attorney, Charles Hochbaum, appeared before Magistrate Judge Marilyn Go in court Tuesday afternoon arguing, “The key to this case [is] the First Amendment right to advertise. It’s not promoting prostitution. There’re disclaimers all over the website, which indicate that this is not a website for sexual purposes.”
The full federal complaint was unsealed in a Brooklyn court today, and contains plenty of fun references to the site, to models’ descriptions of themselves, and to the obvious prostitution-related nature of the profiles on the site.
This makes me chuckle, in a legal document:
The complaint points to the Hookie Awards, sponsored by Rentboy, noting that there are categories for “best top” and “best bottom,” and it explains that “bottom” is a “slang term for a sexually submissive partner.”
Also, Killian James’ profile gets singled out as one of several that are quoted in the complaint,
Anyway, this is all ridiculous, and terrible, and will likely be a blow to the incomes of many porn models — many of them, as you likely know, make the majority of their income these days from escorting, using porn, essentially, just to advertise themselves.
And Coco Lopez’s role as “escort whisperer” is called out as well…
Self-proclaimed “angry gay libertarian” Scott Shackford just posted his reactions to the federal takedown, wondering aloud if there will be any arrests of prostitutes or johns next (probably not, but who knows).
The question remains, why raid them now? Dan Savage writes about the bust in The Stranger, freaking out that the government a) seems to be lamenting the loss of pimps in the internet economy, and b) they now have control over information related to everyone whose ever used the site — their IP addresses anyway, and their membership fees, since clients contacted escorts directly and did not pay them through the site.
If law enforcement officials in New York and other states start rounding up people who booked time with escorts via Rentboy.com—it’s going to make the Ashley Madison hack look like an opaque subtweet. Scores of Republican politicians, evangelical Christians, and Duggars will be outed if the cops/feds go after the men who booked time with escorts via Rentboy.com. (And I’m betting they don’t go after the clients for just that reason.)
And will they pursue charges against the employees, including poor, wonderful Coco.
And I guess this means no more scholarship program.