Industry News

Escort-review Web sites thrive after failed sting, but women remain wary

From MSNBC, Jan. 20, 2006:

Master Sgt. Bruce C. Woodbury, head of the vice unit of the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office in Tampa, Fla., would like to be the biggest threat to escort review Web sites, but he acknowledges that he isn’t. Nor is he likely to be any time soon.

The Hillsborough vice unit pioneered the technique of registering with escort sites and posting bogus profiles when it launched Operation Flea Collar in 2002, targeting Big Doggie, which is in its back yard. Vice officers started their own fake Web page in order to join Big Doggie, and they almost immediately were flooded with solicitations for dates.

Eventually, authorities in Hillsborough and in Orange County, who joined the investigation later, brought more than 50 felony racketeering, procurement and obstruction charges against Charles S. Kelly of Tampa, the 300-pound “Big Dog” for whom the site is named; his business partner, Steven E. Lipson of Boca Raton; and 11 others. Police said in charging documents that they were raking in $30,000 to $80,000 a month from facilitating prostitution.

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