New York authorities indicted seven people accused of running a prostitution ring on the Web site Craigslist, the state’s attorney general announced Wednesday.
Attorney General Andrew Cuomo’s office said the group ran a 24-hour prostitution ring called Room Service Entertainment from Craigslist’s erotic services section from June 2007 to December 2008. The 47-count indictment unsealed Wednesday named the company’s co-owners as Scott Rosenberg, 45, and Josef Davenport, 31. Five women also were named in the indictment, identified as bookers for the alleged prostitution ring. The five women named in the indictment were identified as Patricia Krupa, Joanna Mercado, Sylvia Soto, Lina Vazquez and Barbara Morris. It was not immediately known if those charged had hired legal counsel. Five of the defendants appeared in court Wednesday afternoon, Cuomo’s office said. Authorities are still searching for two, who have not yet been arrested. It was not immediately clear which two had not been arrested. Craigslist, an online classified-ad site, was the “sole vehicle through which the company operated,” Cuomo’s office said.
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Room Service Entertainment posted advertisements for its services every day on Craigslist’s erotic services section, the indictment said. The bookers for the company “continuously created and posted prostitution advertisements on Craigslist’s erotic services section because the more current the post, the more prominently the ad was featured on Craigslist,” the statement from Cuomo’s office said. The advertisements contained either a pornographic or semipornographic photograph and a phone number to call to “arrange a date.” The bookers used codes for its services when potential “johns” called: “GFE” for “girlfriend experience” or “skiing” and “rock climbing” for drugs, Cuomo’s office said. While Room Service Entertainment was running, it employed 10 drivers and 16 prostitutes on “any given day,” according to the indictment. Over the course of its existence, 20 to 30 prostitutes and drivers were employed by Room Service Entertainment, the indictment said. The “johns” paid for sex by cash or by credit card, and Room Service Entertainment masked the credit card transactions through a Chase merchant account, the indictment alleged. The charges were purported to be for magicians, clowns, balloons or disc jockeys, it said. If convicted on the top count of enterprise corruption, all could face up to 25 years in prison, Cuomo’s office said. “Until Craigslist gets serious about putting real protections in place, it will continue to be an environment where criminal operations thrive with impunity,” Cuomo said in a written statement. “Even after so-called reform of the Web site last fall, this prostitution ring easily gamed the system and allegedly used Craigslist to spread its illegal operation throughout all five boroughs and beyond.” Craigslist chief executive Jim Buckmaster released a statement saying the activities took place in 2008, “well before Craigslist eliminated erotic services and commenced manual screening of all ads posted to adult services.” Craigslist representatives met in New York last week the attorneys general of Connecticut, Missouri and Illinois, all of whom asked the company to shut down its “erotic services” sections in their states. Following the meeting Craigslist said it would replace its controversial “erotic services” listings with a new section where sex-related ads will be checked by Craigslist employees before posting. Buckmaster said the new measures have driven the advertisements to other services.