Sex and “Skiing”: 7 Busted in Craigslist Prostitution Ring

The arrests come after the Website removed its "erotic service" section

Seven people have been indicted on charges of running a Queens based prostitution ring that used Craigslist to find clients, law enforcement officials said.
Five of the seven suspects have been charged with corruption, conspiracy and money laundering. They're scheduled to appear in state Supreme Court today in Queens, where authorities say the Ozone Park operation was based, according to Attorney General Andrew Cuomo.

Craigslist has recently dropped its "erotic services" section and last year it said it was cracking down on solicitation.  Last night, Craigslist chief executive Jim Buckmaster sued South Carolina's attorney general, saying the prosecutor's threat to file prostitution charges against the San Francisco company violates its executives' constitutional rights.

New York officials contend the Website is not doing enough to crush illegal activity.

"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," Cuomo said. "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 indictment names Scott Rosenberg, Josef Davenport, Patricia Krupa, Joanna Mercado, Sylvia Soto, Barbara Morris and Lina Vazquez.

Read the Indictment
Authorities are searching for two other people.
The group operated Room Service Entertainment in the “erotic services” section of Craigslist from June 2007 through December 2008, Cuomo's office said. Investigators say the ads included explicit or seminude photographs and a phone number to arrange “dates.”  The organization employed 20 to 30 prostitutes.

Potentials clients would call the number listed, and bookers would ask callers their location and what they were looking for, before setting up appointments with a prostitute.

"The bookers were instructed not to explicitly discuss sex during the telephone conversations with the Johns and instead use designated terms to describe the services. For example GFE means girl friend experience or skiing and rock climbing means drugs and partying," Cuomo explained.

Between July of 2008 and December of 2008,  credit card transactions were processed through a Chase bank merchant account which created a paper trail creating the appearance that Room Service Entertainment provided legitimate entertainment services to its customers.

The defendants each face a maximum 25 years in prison if convicted.

Craigslist has said it will replace its "erotic services'' ads with a new adult category that Web site employees will review.

In a pair of shocking incidents over the last two months, two New Yorkers who posted ads in the section met a gruesome demise.  Radio newsman George Weber was stabbed more than 50 times in his Brooklyn home after posting an ad for rough sex.  Upper West Sider Julissa Brisman fell victim to the notorious "Craigslist Killer" -- a 23-year-old Boston medical student named Philip Markoff -- after she answered a Craigslist ad for massage, police said. 

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