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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, January 29, 2016 - Volume 44 Issue 05
U.S. indicts ex-Rentboy.com CEO on prostitution charge
Section One
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U.S. indicts ex-Rentboy.com CEO on prostitution charge

by Shaun Knittel - SGN Associate Editor

Jeffrey Hurant, 51, the former chief executive of the male escort website Rentboy.com was indicted on Wednesday on a charge of promoting prostitution and added money laundering charges - charges not previously filed against the company founder in a criminal complaint in August 2015. The three-count indictment by a federal grand jury in Brooklyn, New York has outraged Gay and civil rights activists.

Easy Rent Systems, Inc. did business as Rentboy.com, and was also named a defendant. However, the indictment did not name six former employees who were arrested along with Hurant in August when authorities seized the Gay website. But a spokeswoman for Brooklyn U.S. Attorney Robert Capers did say that a criminal complaint against the former employees remains pending.

The case prompted criticism and has some asking why prosecutors are targeting the service after it had operated transparently for nearly two decades.

Rentboy.com was founded in 1996. Authorities allege it became the largest online male escort website in the nation and even hosted an annual escorts' awards show called the Hookies.

The website carried disclaimers saying its advertisements for escorts were for companionship and not sexual services. But authorities say Rentboy.com was intended primarily to promote prostitution. Escorts paid at least $59.95 per month and up to several hundred dollars to advertise on Rentboy.com, which attracted 500,000 unique visitors daily and generated more than $10 million from 2010 to 2015, prosecutors said.

The new indictment said Rentboy also offered an advertising discount to escort agencies and, despite policies banning escorts aged below 18, did not verify their ages.

Hurant's attorney, Michael Tremonte, said he would contest the charges and looked forward to 'full vindication at trial.'

'The government's charges against Mr. Hurant are unwarranted. He ran his business openly for nearly 20 years, and it makes no sense to single him out for criminal prosecution,' Tremonte said.

Critics of the case also include The New York Times. The newspaper said, in an editorial last August, prosecutors had not justified shutting down 'a company that provided sex workers with a safer alternative to street walking or relying on pimps.'

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