A San Francisco-based escort website was shut down by the FBI and the IRS today, according to a notice now replacing the homepage of MyRedBook.com. The website was used for free listings for services ranging from massage parlors, strippers, dominatrixes and escorts throughout the western U.S. “This domain name is subject to both civil and criminal forfeiture,” the FBI wrote in its notice. “This seizure is based on probable cause to believe that this domain name was involved in money laundering derived from racketeering based on prostitution in violation of state and federal law.” FBI spokesman Peter Lee said that a hearing related to the case would be held this afternoon in the federal courtroom of U.S. Magistrate Judge Nathanael Cousins in San Francisco.
He confirmed that there were multiple FBI search and arrest warrants served in the Bay Area today, including in the 200 block of Houghton Street in Mountain View. Bay Area sex workers have expressed concern that the seizure could affect their livelihood and safety. Kristina Dolgin, a spokeswoman with the Bay Area chapter of the Sex Worker Outreach Project, said that some of her group’s members are consulting with attorneys out of concern that the FBI’s targeting of MyRedBook could lead to charges filed against them.
Dolgin said the FBI might have gained IP addresses, phone numbers, email addresses and other personal details of Bay Area sex workers. “It’s a very scary thing,” she said. Furthermore, Dolgin said the loss of MyRedBook as a free resource for sex workers — one that allows them to screen clients and work through a relatively safe environment — could put an already marginalized community further at risk. “They’re going to have less safe interactions and be put into situations where they can be put at risk of violence,” Dolgin said. “To those who can’t afford switching to another website, this is completely detrimental.” Other websites offer similar services, she said, but charge to create listings and operate on a national scale.
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