Rentboy.com was cited as attempting to present a veneer of legality, when in fact it was an Internet brothel
51-year-old Jeffrey Hurant who admitted in Court that he knew the ads on the website were for male prostitution, faces up to five years in prison and a $10 million fine for conspiring to launder the proceeds of illicit advertising on the website through his corporation Easy Rent Systems Inc. from 1996 to 2015.
According to Assistant U.S. Attorney Tyler Smith, “The corporation operated primarily for a criminal purpose.” Notable, the website featured the slogan, “Money can’t buy you love … but the rest is negotiable.
Earlier in February this year, Hurant, CEO of Rentboy.com, the world’s largest online male escort service, pled not guilty to promoting prostitution and money laundering, but ended up cutting a deal with federal prosecutors.
He was facing up to 20 years in prison if he’s convicted of the charges in a three-count indictment that has enraged activists in the gay community who accused prosecutors of homophobia.
Jeffery Hurant (second left) exiting Brooklyn Federal Court, Friday, after pleading guilty to charges of promoting prostitution
Hurant, the sole shareholder of Easy Rent Systems Inc, and six of his employees were arrested in August 2015 when federal agents raided the website’s Manhattan office. Charges against the employees were later dismissed subsequent to a motion filed by the Brooklyn U.S. Attorney’s office.
According to the complaint, Hurant painted himself into a corner when he gave away in an interview in England, that he learned the term “rentboy” was slang for an escort, and that he started the website “to keep the oldest profession in the world up to date with all the latest technology.”
The site boasts a database of 10,500 men in more than 2,100 cities worldwide and receives 500,000 unique visitors daily.
The website claimed its ads are for companionship, not sex, but prosecutors allege that is simply false. Buttressing this view of the company’s services is website’s slogan: “Money can’t buy you love … but the rest is negotiable” and called itself the largest online male escort service in the world.According to the US Attorney for Brooklyn, Kelly Currie, “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,” said acting Brooklyn U.S. Attorney Kelly Currie, citing the escort profiles which lists “primary interests” including fetishes like “spanking,” “S&M,” and “role playing” as a policeman, priest, football coach or cheerleader. One escort even advertised his rates for various activities. Another staffer, a sales account manager, described herself as an “escort whisperer” who helped the male prostitutes raise their social media profiles.
Jeffery Hurant, initially denied any wrong doing “I don’t think we’d do anything to promote prostitution” ,”I think we do good things for good people and bring good people together” .
The six other employees later had their charges dropped including marketing director Michael Belman, who is married to a Yale University professor of American Studies and the company’s accountant Marco Decker, who is married to a Mt. Sinai Hospital surgeon. They were facing up to five years in prison had they been convicted.
The website hosted an annual award show , bestowing “Hookies” to the best escort, had
Hurant, then denying any wrong doing said “I don’t think we’d do anything to promote prostitution,” in his view,”I think we do good things for good people and bring good people together.
The raid by the feds and subsequent prosecution or rentboy.com has not down well with the gay community who said it was motivated by homophobia, triggering protests outside the courthouse by gay activists demanding the feds stay out of their bedrooms.
While denying that his client had commited anty crime, Hurant’s lawyer Charles Hochbaum had predicted the case will turn on his client’s First Amendment right to advertise the services of people “who are willing to be escorts accompanying people for their time and being paid.”
The views of the gay community did not abate, Friday, when after the proceedings, gay activist Bill Dobbs, who has been at the forefront of the protests said,”It was a completely sketchy, outrageous prosecution in the 21st century,” “I presume (Hurant) was backed into a corner by (U.S. Attorney General) Loretta Lynch and company.”
The fed raid on rentboy corporate offices drew criticism from the gay activists who accused the federal government of meddling in people’s sex lives.
The federal authorities seized the Rentboy domain name, and shut down the site. According to federal sentencing guidelines, Hurant’s federal plea arrengement calls for a term of 15 to 21 months in prison. He also pleaded guilty on behalf of the corporation that he founded in 1996. He is its sole shareholder.
Hurant’s federal sentencing guidelines call for a term of 15 to 21 months in prison. He also pleaded guilty on behalf of Easy Rent Systems Inc., a corporation he founded 20 years ago. He is its sole shareholder of the corporation. In his plea deal Hurant agreed not to appeal the sentence contingent on Federal Judge Margo Brodie handing a sentence of two years or less in prison with a fine of $10 million or less.