Search Warrants, Criminal Investigations and Online Prostitution: The Realities of the Eros.Com Raid

Eros.Com is likely one of the largest, most proficient and heavily trafficked website peddling independent and “enterprise” based escorts and other adult entertainers. Based on their own billing as the “Ultimate Guide to Escorts and Erotic Entertainment,” Eros.Com may not be a direct purveyor of prostitution, but the website facilitated thousands of alleged escorts in selling their companionship services to men and women from the metropolises of New York City, Chicago and Los Angeles to the less traveled cities of Denver, Portland and Charlotte.  Whether each and every woman advertising on the website ultimately sold sex, friendship, or, for that matter, manipulated unwitting men to provide their personal information for more nefarious purposes such as blackmail, one may never know. However, now that Homeland Security (DHS) and the US Attorney’s Office have had the time to digest the data and materials secured before, during and after the execution of a search warrant or search warrants at Eros.Com’s Youngsville, North Carolina offices this past November, many an escort and john are rightfully frightened.

Although I am unaware of any arrests that have occurred since the US Attorney’s Office’s assertion there was (is?) an active investigation, one should be neither naïve nor foolish. Because Eros confirmed advertisers, aka, alleged escorts and “prostitutes,” were in fact whomever they claimed to be, it is likely that the records recovered pursuant to the search warrants included images of valid state and federal-issued identifications, genuine photographs, contact information, credit card account numbers, phone numbers and other personal identifying information of not merely dozens or hundreds of users, but in great multiples of tens of thousands. Further, because Grand Jury proceedings are secret and it doesn’t behoove law enforcement to leak the arrest or cooperation of targets, whether it’s the US Attorney, FBI, or DHS on the Federal level or the New York State Attorney General, local District Attorney or NYPD on the state level, targets of this investigation likely won’t know an arrest is forthcoming until they see the whites of an agent’s or detective’s eyes and feel the slap of handcuff’s on their respective wrists.

If there is any comforting spin that an alleged escort involved in prostitution can hold onto, just as fish swim in a school to avoid the jagged razors of a shark’s mouth, there is relative safety in numbers. It is inconceivable, even if the evidence could circumstantially or direct prove beyond a reasonable doubt that every escort and advertiser engaged in prostitution and other crimes, that DHS, the FBI or a local police agency could arrest everyone and prosecutors could convict the same. Moreover, law enforcement generally “flips up,” meaning, those who facilitate criminal wrongdoing, perpetrate RICO violations (Enterprise Corruption in New York State), launder money, and commit other crimes including sex trafficking and tax related frauds, should be the main target. That said, even if the US Attorney or a local prosecutor pursues a “bigger fish” it doesn’t mean that an independent escort or organized madam or pimp has nothing to fear. Remember, a credit card number, IP log, payment to a “burner” phone, and just about any itsy bitsy piece of data can ultimately open up a treasure trove of valuable information to identify people at all levels. Whether you made $100,000 in cash without paying taxes, allowed your apartment to be a vehicle to promote or further prostitution, or you falsified records filed with the state and Federal governments for the purpose of setting up a shell company to launder your income, there are criminal and civil consequences.

At bottom, whether its unlawfully selling drugs, illegally transporting firearms, defrauding the IRS or furthering prostitution, that the age of existing in the shadows is all bot over. Before you get the proverbial, if not literal, knock on the door, rethink what your life has in store for you and its trajectory. While you cannot change your past, you can at least educate yourself on the criminal law. Most importantly, know your rights and have the courage to exercise them.

To learn more about crimes involving prostitution and escort services, review the links provided in this blog entry and consult with your criminal lawyer.

Crotty Saland PC is a New York criminal defense firm representing clients in both New York State and Federal Court. Both founding criminal lawyers served as prosecutors in the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office.

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