I previously posted about Eric Omuro and his former website MyRedbook. The TL;DR version is that MyRedbook was a San Francisco Bay area prostitution website in the vein of Backpage that was shut down by the feds and Mr. Omuro was charged with facilitating prostitution and money laundering and pleaded guilty to those charges. In those posts I referred to MyRedbook, and in my opinion rightfully so, as a sex trafficking website.
More recently I posted an update to the story where Mr. Omuro was forced to forfeit a rather large sum of money as part of his plea deal. When I post a minor update like that, rather than making a an entire new post out of it I just add a snippet of text and a link to the previous post. Then what I do is send out the update on my social networking accounts. One of those accounts happens to be Tumblr. That update was reblogged on Tumblr by someone with the following…
MyRedBook was not a “sex trafficking website”, and its closure has made life significantly more dangerous for workers in the states in which it operated. Don’t spout ignorant shit.
First off one of the charges that Eric Omuro pleaded guilty to was facilitating prostitution. Where there is prostitution there is inevitably going to be women and girls who are being trafficked against their will, even in self-contained bubbles of counter-culture like San Francisco. Secondly that argument that websites like MyRedbook or Backpage make sex workers safer is specious at best. If anything it’s as dangerous or even more dangerous as the number of murders, rapes, and assaults that happen to sex workers who advertise on Backpage and Craigslist can attest to. Since sites like MyRedbook and Backpage make prostitution as easy and ubiquitous as ordering a pizza that increases not only the number of girls and women being trafficked but also the number of those that become victims to violent crimes committed by johns.
If you are in the sex industry I always recommend getting out before you get hurt. While I realize it’s not always easy there are resources for you, some of which can be found down the right hand column of this website under the heading of Sex Trafficking Resources.
Unfortunately it wasn’t anyone from Backpage.
I originally posted about Eric Omuro here. He was the operator of escort website MyRedbook when he was arrested by the FBI on prostitution and money laundering charges back in June. Earlier this month Omuro pleaded guilty to facilitating prostitution.
Omuro admitted that the website hosted advertisements posted by prostitutes containing explicit photos, graphic descriptions of sexual services offered, and rates for the sexual services.
The reason this is a big deal is because it’s the first successful prosecution of its kind. Normally people like this hide behind free speech arguments or the massively outdated Communications Decency Act of 1996 to say that they’re not responsible for what their users post on their websites. However the website operators like Omuro know that these ads are for prostitution. They’re not that stupid and are too greedy to stop.
Hopefully Omuro’s guilty plea put Backpage on notice letting them know maybe they’re not as untouchable as they think they are.
UPDATE 5/2/2015: As part of his plea agreement Omuro must forfeit two cars and over one million dollars. Sentencing is scheduled for later this month.
UPDATE 5/27/2015: Omuro was sentenced to 13 months in federal prison.
And for those of you defending Omuro and MyRedBook…
The FBI identified more than 50 juveniles advertising prostitution on myRedBook, according to court documents.
Now hopefully the feds can go after Backpage before they flee the country.
This time the answer could be maybe.
The San Francisco office of the FBI recently announced that they had shut down ‘escort’ site MyReddbook and arrested its proprietor Eric Omuro. He’s been charged with facilitating prostitution and money laundering. The FBI has also taken possession of the website and visitors to the site are greeted with an FBI takedown page.
Now of course this raises the question will the feds go after Backpage next? Well, that depends. I get the impression that they were able to close down MyRedbook more due to the money laundering than the facilitation of prostitution. While MyRedbbok was a major player in online sex trafficking it pales in comparison to the scope of Backpage. MyRedbook is a mom and pop store compared to Backpage’s corporate command of the internet. Backpage’s owners, Michael Lacey and Jim Larkin, maybe morally bankrupt as human beings but I doubt they’re stupid enough to get involved in something small time like money laundering. However I really hope this arrest makes them more than a little nervous.
UPDATE 7/5/2014: Omuro has pleaded not guilty to the prostitution and money laundering charges.