Police and prosecutors say an online male escort service was actually a front for prostitution. But as NY1’s Lori Chung explains, the CEO says the website did nothing wrong.
"It's only the first six hours of a long battle, and I really don't have a lot to say," said Jeffrey Hurant, CEO of Rentboy.com.
Hurant appeared in a federal court in Downtown Brooklyn Tuesday, answering charges that his male escort site, Rentboy.com, serves as a front for prostitution.
"Twenty years we've been doing it, and I don't think that we do anything to promote prostitution," he said.
Federal prosecutors say otherwise.
Hurant and six other staffers were arrested and arraigned, accused of facilitating illegal activity. Officials say Rentboy charged subscribers nearly $60 a month and up to several hundred dollars on top of that to advertise sexual services they were willing to perform for a price. But an attorney for one of the defendants says it’s not a clear-cut case, given the evolving role of the internet in everyday life.
"They're very serious charges, but the case involves First Amendment issues and the use of technology and as a society catching up with the technology, and we see that at play in this case," said defense attorney Anthony Rico.
Officers raided the company's Manhattan offices, collecting computers and boxes of evidence. Rentboy.com has been in operation since 1997 and displays a disclaimer that says, "This site may not be used for the advertising of sexual services or to engage in activities requiring the payment of money for sex."
Hurant says he’s confident there’s nothing illegal about his site.
"I think we do good things for good people and we bring good people together," he said. "And I hope justice will be done."
Rentboy earned more than $10 million between 2010 and 2015. Officials are taking steps to seize at least $1.4 million of those earnings.