Seven people were indicted this week on charges that they were operating a prostitution ring that advertised exclusively on Craigslist.
The indictments are the latest in a series of blows to the Craigslist classified advertising Web site. Cuomo announced the takedown of the alleged prostitution ring, called Room Service Entertainment, yesterday.
According to Cuomo, the business was run from the Queens borough of New York and advertised exclusively in the Erotic Services section of Craigslist. The company's manager and booker, Patricia "Nikki" Krupa, 32, and four other bookers associated with the operation also were also charged in the count indictment unsealed yesterday in Queens County Court.
The charges against the seven include enterprise corruption, conspiracy and money laundering, according to Cuomo's office. Today's arrests underscore the inherent risks posed by Craigslist and, most importantly, the need for protections that are full-fledged, not half-baked.
The indictments come amid legal wrangling and a verbose public back-and-forth between executives of Craigslist and various state attorneys general, who have been pushing the site to eliminate its racy advertisements. Earlier this month, Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal called Craigslist an "online brothel"while South Carolina Attorney General Henry McMaster threatened a criminal investigation and possible prosecution if the site doesn't clean up its act.
Those moves came after Cook County, Ill. Dart filed a lawsuit in U. District Court in March against the owners of Craigslist, accusing them of knowingly promoting and facilitating prostitution. The suit was filed just four months after the Web site had settled a national lawsuit and vowed to set up safeguards to restrict some postings on the Web site.
Blumenthal backed off his criticism last week after Craigslist announced plans to remove the Erotic Services category from its Web site within seven days. It's being replaced with an Adult Services category that Buckmaster said will be manually reviewed. Blumenthal applauded that decision.
Craigslist this week turned the tables on McMaster by filing a federal lawsuit against the attorney general for the threat to go after the Web site and its racy. The company is seeking a restraining order and declaratory relief, which is a court's judgment on a party's rights without awarding damages or ordering anything to be done.
While some of the in the Erotic Services category have included nude photos and list hourly rates, Buckmaster contended at the time that the advertisements are not necessarily pushing illegal services.
The Erotic Services category on Craigslist has been under heavy scrutiny since Boston University medical student Philip Markoff was arrested and arraigned last month for allegedly murdering one woman and kidnapping and assaulting another after meeting both of them through Erotic Services on Craigslist. In the indictment unsealed this week, Cuomo alleges that Room Service Entertainment employed "numerous bookers, drivers and prostitutes.
These postings contained either a pornographic or semi-pornographic photograph and a phone to call to arrange a 'date. Sharon Gaudin is a science writer at Worcester Polytechnic Institute and an experienced technology reporter.
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