Jeffrey Hurant, 50, the CEO of Rentboy.com and six others were arraigned in Brooklyn federal court after their arrest Tuesday morning, according to a press release from the U.S. Attorney's office for eastern New York
. They have each been charged with "conspiring to violate the Travel Act by promoting 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," acting U.S. Attorney Kelly T. Currie said.
Founded in 1997, Rentboy.com is a male escort advertising site that charges subscribers a "minimum monthly fee of $59.95 and up to several hundred dollars to advertise sexual services," according to the press release. Rentboy's Twitter account describes the company as "The Original & World's Largest Male Escort Site" and has some 11,000 followers.
Swarmed by reporters outside court Tuesday, Hurant said it was "alarming to have people at your door at 6 in the morning, for sure."
He then proceeded to staunchly defend his company and its operations the past 20 years.
"I don't think that we do anything to promote prostitution," Hurant said. "I think we do good things for good people, and we bring good people together."
Before entering the site, visitors must acknowledge a disclaimer that reads, in part, "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."
But the U.S. Attorney's office said that disclaimer is a ruse, saying "Rentboy.com is designed primarily for advertising illegal prostitution."
"The facilitation and promotion of prostitution offenses across state lines and international borders is a federal crime made even more egregious when it's blatantly advertised by a global criminal enterprise," said Glenn Sorge, acting special agent in charge of Homeland Security Investigations.
Federal authorities gathered boxes of documents and computer evidence from the company's New York office Tuesday morning, according to CNN affiliate WCBS.
The government also seized $1.4 million of alleged criminal proceeds from six bank accounts and restrained the domain name www.rentboy.com, according to the U.S. attorney's office. The company reportedly made over $10 million between 2010 and 2015.
If convicted, Hurant and the six other defendants could be sentenced up to five years in prison and fined up to $250,000.