Full details have emerged of the US Homeland Security complaint against rentboy.com.
Yesterday, the site’s founder and chief executive, Jeffrey Hurant was arrested, along with six members of current and former staff.
Hurant and five members of those staff were formally charged with promoting prostitution at the Federal District Court in Brooklyn in the afternoon. The sixth person, who according to his lawyer now works at a different business, was charged in South Dakota.
Following the arraignment, Durant defended himself to reporters outside the court, saying, ‘I don’t think that we do anything to promote prostitution … I think we do good things for good people, and we bring good people together.’
Hurant’s lawyer said that the case was a First Amendment issue: ‘My client advertises for people who are willing to be escorts, to accompany people for their time and be paid.
‘He’s upset and confused about how this legitimate business could become the subject of a Homeland Security investigation.’
A statement from the US Department of Justice said: ‘Rentboy.com is a male escort advertising site founded in 1997 which hosts thousands of paid advertisements. While the site has disclaimers stating that the advertisements are for companionship and not sexual services, Rentboy.com is designed primarily for advertising illegal prostitution.’
‘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,’ said Acting United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, Kelly T. Currie.
The full, 22-page complaint against rentboy.com can be read here.
It notes that site generated revenue of $10million between 2010 and 2015, and carries several thousand advertisements. The site’s motto is ‘Money can’t buy you love… but the rest is negotiable’.
The website charges advertisers between $59.95 to £229.95 a month to promote their services.
Although the site carries a disclaimer in its terms of service stating that, ‘This site may not be used for the advertising of sexual services or to engage in activities requiring the payment of money for sex of other illegal activities’, the complaint concludes that, ‘the entire website is designed for the purpose of advertising prostitution.’
‘Escort profiles generally detail the sexual acts each escort is willing to perform and the price. They also contain nude pictures and indications relating to penis size. In addition, profile pages have links to a separate website called DADDYSREVIEWS.COM that contains explicit reviews of the escorts written by previous customers.’
It notes that when compiling their adverts, escorts are asked to complete sections on their physical attributes, including ‘foreskin’, ‘cock size’ and ‘build’.
‘The escorts are asked to provide in the “Preferences” category their “Sexual Orientation,” “Safe Sex,” and “Sexual Position”.’
They can also tick from a list of pre-defined interests, this can include anal (‘Activity involving the anus, asshole or butt play’), toys, leather, vanilla, watersports and oral (‘cocksucking or a “blowjob”’), among other interests.
It notes that users of the site can search for escorts according to the aforementioned physical attributes and interests.
It goes on to reference specific adverts to illustrate the nature of the services on offer. For example, ‘Brandon’ in Brooklyn advertises that he is ‘hairy handsome versatile & uninhibited’ and has a ‘sling and rimchair’.
‘A rimchair is a seat resembling a raised toilet seat designed so that the anus is accessible while someone is sitting on the seat,’ explains the Homelands Security Agent, Susan Ruiz, who authored the complaint. ‘I have also learned that “rimming” refers to the touching of the tongue to the anus.’
The complain details several such examples, as well as highlighting the fact that rentboy.com hosts the annual International Escort Awards, commonly known as ‘the Hookies’.
The show was advertised as ‘recognizing 17 categories of covering all aspects of the oldest profession in the newest media,’ and included such categories as ‘best top’, ‘best bottom’ and ‘best cock’.
The complaint (dated 18 August 2015) details the charges against each defendant and the New York State laws criminalizing prostitution and the promotion of prostitution.
Echoing the comments made by Hurant’s attorney, legal representatives for the other defendants who commented to reporters yesterday indicated that they plan to address the complaint as a First Amendment issue.
If convicted the defendants face a maximum penalty of five years’ imprisonment and a fine of up to $250,000.
In a separate development, a meeting will take place at Judson Memorial Church’s Assembly Hall in Manhattan this evening (26 August) for advertisers on the site concerned about any legal implications for themselves.
The ‘Know your rights’ workshop is being organized by independent community leaders and lawyers.
‘This meeting is intended to be informational in nature, and it will not consist of a question and answer session, and no one will be asked to identify themselves in any way,’ said a public posting on Facebook.
‘However, attendees should be aware of the possibility that undercover agents or criminal informants may gain access, and that there is no way to ensure that they will not. For this reason among others, attendees should not discuss their individual circumstances, names, or contact information at the meeting.
‘The aim of the meeting will be to summarize the information contained in the federal Criminal Complaint as well as some broad-stroke legal concerns for advertisers on the Rentboy platform, as well as prostitution-related New York State laws.’