CEO Challenges Sentencing Recommendation CEO Challenges Sentencing Recommendation
Rhett Pardon

BROOKLYN, N.Y. — A federal judge has ordered a sentencing hearing on Wednesday for founder Jeffrey Hurant.

In May, sentencing was continued for Hurant on the request of the Justice Department.

At the time, the government asked for more time in the case after Hurant’s attorneys submitted a 43-page sentencing memorandum that attached more than 150 pages of testimonials from individuals in a bid to spare Hurant from prison time.

U.S. District Judge Margo K. Brodie this week set sentencing for Wednesday at 10 a.m. in Brooklyn federal court.

Hurant operated the gay hookup site in the open for about two decades.

But in 2015, the government raided its offices and seized the website. Hurant subsequently pleaded guilty to one count of promoting prostitution and, on behalf of his business, one count of money laundering.

Prosecutors in May recommended a prison term for Hurant in the range of 15 to 21 months.

In a new sentencing memorandum filed this month, federal authorities continued its demand for 15 to 21 months of prison time for Hurant, calling the website “one of the largest prostitution enterprises.”

Prosecutors, in the new memorandum, said that Hurant made more than $300,000 annually from — “a sum of money that any number of criminals would envy.”

“His role as’s CEO was anything but humble,” prosecutors said.

Federal authorities already seized about $1.5 million that they claim was laundered money from Hurant's company, Easy Rent Systems Inc. The government, however, did not pursue a seizure of $101,000 from Hurant’s personal bank account.

Prosecutors also noted in the new memorandum that they seek to send a message to other escort sites.

“Without actual punishment in this case the operators of those websites will likely conclude that they … can expect only a slap on the wrist — hardly the type of punishment that would dissuade someone from the significant money that can be obtained through this type of criminal activity,” prosecutors said.

Hurant, meanwhile, has asked for no jail because his business promoted an “image of positivity and pride in gay sexuality.” He also has cited multiple factors in favor of leniency, including his former site’s beneficial impacts — such as eliminating the pimp factor for hookups and prohibiting underage escorts.  

In a letter sent last week to Brodie, the federal judge hearing the matter, Hurant’s attorneys raised two issues relative to the government’s new memorandum.

Hurant’s lawyers claim that they objected to some of the government’s claims about, including that the web portal was an “escort site” and not an “escort service.”

They also said that Hurant and Easy Rent Systems can’t be guilty of the prostitution enterprise felony on which the government relies and that his base offense level under sentencing guidelines should be lowered.

“The defendants had no involvement in brokering or facilitating the activities of advertisers and their clients following their connection through the site. Thus, the only state promotion of prostitution offense that Hurant and Easy Rent Systems are guilty of is a misdemeanor under New York law.”

Brodie has asked for prosecutors to respond to Hurant’s attorneys letter by Tuesday.