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7 Charged With Promoting Male Prostitution At Manhattan Escort Service

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) -- The chief executive of a Manhattan-based online male escort service and six of his employees at were arrested Tuesday on charges of promoting prostitution.

Federal investigators raided the company's headquarters Tuesday morning in a building on 14th Street and Fifth Avenue, CBS2's Meg Baker reported.

Agents from the Department of Homeland Security, along with officers from the NYPD, carried boxes of documents and computer servers out of the Rentboy operations center. Millions of dollars were seized and the operation's bank accounts were frozen, authorities said.

7 Charged With Promoting Male Prostitution At Manhattan Escort Service is a multimillion-dollar, worldwide social networking site for the male sex industry, authorities said.

Authorities arrested the company's CEO, Jeffrey Hurant, 50, and six of his current and former employees located around New York City.

Federal prosecutors in Brooklyn accused Hurant of selling advertisements to high-priced male prostitutes for several hundred dollars, then charging customers up to $299 a month to access the ads. The operation took in more than $10 million since 2010, prosecutors said.

The doorbell at Rentboy headquarters has a fake name, "Easy Rent Systems," Baker reported.

As CBS2's Tracee Carrasco reported, neighboring businesses had no idea what was going on.

"I'm shocked. It's next to use, we work from morning to night and it's all around us, it's ridiculous," one neighbor said.

Hurant was arraigned and released on $350,000 bond.

Jeffrey Hurant CEO Jeffrey Hurant (Credit: CBS2)

Outside court, he and his lawyer insisted his business was a legitimate companionship service, and that similar escort websites elsewhere have operated without becoming the target of a federal investigation.

"I think we do good things for good people, and bring good people together," Hurant said.

Each defendant faces up to five years in prison if convicted of conspiring to commit crimes involving interstate or foreign travel, WCBS 880's Ginny Kosola reported. The judge warned that the charges could be upgraded as the investigation continues.

7 Charged With Promoting Male Prostitution At Manhattan Escort Service

Authorities say Hurant ran the website and a Twitter account using the handle "thecyberpimp" and was quoted as saying, "Money can't buy you love, but the rest is negotiable."

"This website had a Twitter account that had over 11,000 followers, therefore there's a public safety aspect to this investigation that falls within Homeland Security Investigations' purview," explained Richard Jolles, assistant special agent in charge of Homeland Security Investigations in New York. claims it has a database of nearly 11,000 men in more than 2,100 cities worldwide and is the first and largest website to focus on male escorts, 1010 WINS' Carol D'Auria reported. had pointed users to disclaimers that set guidelines banning offers of sex in exchange for money. But a criminal complaint cited several ads that referred to various sex acts, offered reviews of sexual performance and listed rates ranging from $150 an hour to $3,500 for a weekend.

"As alleged, attempted to present a veneer of legality, when in fact this internet brothel made millions of dollars from promotion of illegal prostitution,'' Acting U.S. Attorney Kelly Currie said in a statement.

Hurant claimed in interviews he learned that the term "rentboy" was British slang for male escorts while he was attending Oxford University, according to the criminal complaint. He has said he started the website because "escorts were a disenfranchised group," it says.

"We just want to keep the oldest profession in the world up to date with all the latest technology," the complaint quotes him as saying. also hosted an annual awards show for escorts called the Hookies, the complaint says. Asked by an undercover investigator who went to the 2015 Hookies and how the show started, Hurant responded, "Have you ever had sex with anyone and it was so good you had to tell someone? That's what this is about,'' the complaint says

(TM and © Copyright 2015 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2015 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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