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August 22, 2016

Rentboy.com’s Former CEO May Be Near Plea Deal

BROOKLYN, N.Y. – Jeffrey Hurant, former chief executive of Rentboy.com’s parent company and the sole remaining human defendant in a criminal case that angered gay rights and sex worker activists, is finalizing a plea agreement, according to documents filed by his attorneys. They’ve requested a plea hearing during the week of Aug. 29.

Paperwork filed with the federal court in Brooklyn does not say to which charges Hurant and Easy Rent Systems Inc. will plead guilty. Both were indicted on three felony counts: two of money laundering and one of promoting prostitution. Neither Hurant’s attorneys nor the Brooklyn office of the U.S. Attorney have elaborated on details.

After their arrest as part of an August 2015 raid on the corporation’s Manhattan offices, Hurant, six employees and the company pleaded not guilty. Prosecutors dropped charges against the six employees in February after a months-long public outcry questioned why federal law enforcement targeted an escort website that had operated openly for 20 years.

The indictment alleged Rentboy knowingly acted as a cyberspace pimp, including for a Florida escort agency under indictment for racketeering and sex trafficking. The indictment also claimed Rentboy did not verify the ages of escorts who advertised on the site.

Hurant and his codefendants denied the prostitution allegations by pointing to a disclaimer on the website’s homepage: “This site may not be used for the advertising of sexual services or to engage in activities requiring the payment of money for sex or other illegal activities.”

Prosecutors called the notice “a ruse” and Easy Rent Systems “a global criminal enterprise.”

According to court documents, Rentboy’s active database listed more than 10,500 escorts, each of whom paid a minimum fee of $59.95 monthly plus additional advertising fees. The site attracted about 500,000 unique visitors daily and generated more than $10 million in the five years immediately preceding the raid, according to the indictment.

Prosecutors seek a 25-year prison sentence for Hurant and forfeiture of the money and other goods authorities seized during the raid. In addition, the federal government wants permanent possession of the domain name Rentboy.com.

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