From: gaycitynews.com

Raid on Rentboy.com Leaves Many Wondering How this Became a Priority

By Duncan Osborne
August 26, 2015

Rentboy.com's homepage. | RENTBOY.COM

Rentboy.com’s homepage. | RENTBOY.COM

The arrests of rentboy.com’s chief executive and six employees of the leading gay escort website are drawing fire from some corners of the LGBT community that see the raid as a waste of federal dollars in pursuit of a victimless crime.

“Rentboy has been an institution in the gay community since 1997,” said Allen Roskoff, president of the Jim Owles Liberal Democratic Club, an LGBT political group. “There are people who need networks like this in order to have sex… An institution like this, which has served the community for many years, is being picked on.”

On August 25, the US Department of Homeland Security, which was supported by the NYPD, raided the Manhattan offices of rentboy.com at Fifth Avenue and 14th Street. Mainstream press outlets, which had clearly been tipped off to the raid, were there to photograph police and investigators as they carried boxes of evidence out of the office.

Homeland Security, Brooklyn federal prosecutor, NYPD, DEA, Manhattan DA team up in high visibility crackdown on Internet escort service

Jeffrey Hurant, the 50-year-old chief executive of rentboy.com, was arrested along with six employees. Hurant and the employees appear to have been arrested at their homes and were not subjected to a perp walk before TV cameras.

News of the raid prompted largely derisive comments on Facebook pages and on the websites joemygod.com, towleroad.com, and queerty.com, with some commenters arguing that prostitution should be legal. Some comments sarcastically observed that Homeland Security must believe that rentboy.com has some link to terrorism. The agency was created in response to the September 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

In a press release, Kelly T. Currie, the acting US attorney for the Eastern District of New York, which is headquartered in Brooklyn, said the site “attempted to present a veneer of legality, when in fact this Internet brothel made millions of dollars from the promotion of illegal prostitution.”

Hurant and his colleagues are charged with promoting prostitution in the third and fourth degrees, which are a D felony and a misdemeanor, respectively, under New York State law, and violating the federal Travel Act, which bars “interstate and foreign travel or transportation in aid of racketeering enterprises.”

There is no money laundering charge in the case. The charges may change as the case progresses. The Travel Act was passed in 1961.

“The facilitation and promotion of prostitution offenses across state lines and international borders is a federal crime made even more egregious when it’s blatantly advertised by a global criminal enterprise,” said Glenn Sorge, the acting special agent in charge of Homeland Security’s New York office, in the press release. “[Homeland Security] will use its unique authorities to disrupt and dismantle such organizations and seize the millions of dollars in illegal proceeds they generate.”

The press release noted the assistance of the federal Drug Enforcement Administration and the district attorney for New York County, Cyrus Vance, Jr. William Bratton, the city’s police commissioner, was quoted.

“As alleged, Rentboy.com profited from the promotion of prostitution despite their claim that their advertisements were not for sexual services,” Bratton said. “Thanks to the detectives, agents, and prosecutors of the US Attorney’s Office in the Eastern District involved in this investigation, these individuals will be held accountable for running this racket.”

Rentboy.com is located within the confines of the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York, but it is the Eastern District that is prosecuting the case. The Southern District is headed by Preet Bharara, who is best known for prosecuting alleged corrupt New York City and State elected officials. The complaint that authorized the arrests noted a number of escorts who advertise on rentboy.com and reside in Brooklyn, which is in the Eastern District.

In response to an email asking why it was not prosecuting the case, the Southern District press office referred Gay City News to the Eastern District press office, which earlier supplied the complaint and press release. The Eastern District would not comment beyond the contents of the complaint.

“It’s another chapter is the war on sex in this country, using the vast powers of Homeland Security against an escort service during the Obama administration,” said William Dobbs, a gay civil libertarian. “How does prostitution get escalated to this level of federal action?”

Officers

BOARD OF GOVERNORS

  1. Hon. Eric Adams
  2. George Arzt
  3. Lance Bass
  4. John Blair
  5. Mark Benoit
  6. Hon. Rodneyse Bichotte
  7. Hon. Jonathan Bing
  8. Robin Byrd
  9. Hon. Gale Brewer
  10. Christian Campbell
  11. Gus Christensen
  12. Erik Coler
  13. Hon. Martin Connor
  14. Hon. Jon Cooper
  15. Wilson Cruz
  16. Hon. Laurie Cumbo
  17. Alan Cumming
  18. Valorie Curry
  19. Michael Czaczkes
  20. Hon. Bill de Blasio
  21. Jon Del Giorno
  22. Aries Dela Cruz
  23. Kyan Douglas
  24. Hon. Daniel Dromm
  25. James Duff
  26. Hon. Ronnie Eldridge
  27. Hon. Herman Farrell
  28. Hon. Alan Fleishman
  29. Hon. Dan Garodnick
  30. Dan Gettleman
  31. Emily Jane Goodman
  32. Hon. Mark Green
  33. Robert Grunnah
  34. Tony Hoffmann
  35. Hon. Brad Hoylman
  36. Binn Jakupi
  37. Hon. Letitia James
  38. Hon. Corey Johnson
  39. Camille Joseph
  40. Phillip Keane
  41. Greg Lambert
  42. Dodge Landesman
  43. Phillip McCarthy
  44. Cameron McFadden
  45. Matt McMorrow
  46. Michael Mallon
  47. Mike C. Manning
  48. Cathy Marino-Thomas
  49. Hon. Carlos Menchaca
  50. Hon. Rosie Mendez
  51. John Cameron Mitchell
  52. Donny Moss
  53. Barry Mullineaux
  54. Hon. Paul Newell
  55. Hon. Yuh-Line Niou
  56. Denis O'Hare
  57. Noah Pfefferbilt
  58. Josue Pierre
  59. Bob Pontarelli
  60. Billy Porter
  61. Joe Pressley
  62. Randy Rainbow
  63. Hon. Jenifer Rajkumar
  64. Hon. Gustavo Rivera
  65. Barbara Rosen
  66. Hon. Helen Rosenthal
  67. Maer Roshan
  68. Toby Russo
  69. Bill Samuels
  70. James Sansum
  71. Scott Sartiano
  72. Hon. Arthur Schwartz
  73. Lynn Schulman
  74. Hon. Rebecca Seawright
  75. Frank Selvaggi
  76. Rev. Al Sharpton
  77. Hon. Jo Anne Simon
  78. Tom Smith
  79. Marti Speranza
  80. Anne Strahle
  81. Hon. Scott Stringer
  82. Wayne Sunday
  83. Hon. Bill Thompson
  84. Hon. Matt Titone
  85. Hon. Ritchie Torres
  86. Sam Underwood
  87. Derek Walker
  88. Jessica Walter
  89. Patricia Nell Warren
  90. Wil Weder
  91. Seth Weissman
  92. Mel Wymore
  93. Emma Wolfe
  94. Hon. Keith Wright
  95. Zephyr Teachout