Reason Roundup

Homeland Security Seizes Another Sex Worker Website: Reason Roundup

Plus: Trump gets caught talking cash payoffs, Claire McCaskill's cronyism is uncovered, and the Outrage-Industrial Complex comes for Rick and Morty.



The feds have killed another sex worker website. Federal prosecutors announced Tuesday that they had seized the website and arrested two of its operators, Brandon Martin and Tameko Lindo. The pair are charged with money laundering and conspiracy to commit money laundering, which are the Justice Department's go-to charges for sexually oriented entrepreneurs that they can't get on other charges.

Prostitution is not illegal at the federal level. But using the mail or interstate commerce to promote it will put you in violation of the still-very-much-used White Slavery Act (now better known as the Mann Act) or the Travel Act. And if you accept or use any money from said promotion, that's money laundering. If you ever talk about that with anyone else, that's conspiracy to commit money laundering. In other words, charging people with money laundering can be a way to get around the fact that petty vice crimes are supposed to be left to states.

In this case, Martin, Lindo, "and others known, and unknown," are accused of conducting or attempting to conduct financial transactions while "knowing that the property involved…represented the proceeds of some form of unlawful activity." The core of the matter is that Lindo and Martin allegedly ran "an escort service" that "utilized various bank accounts" to deposit earnings and then used money in this accounts to continue operation of the business.

The case was a joint operation of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the New York City Police Department.

Martin and Lindo are not accused of "sex trafficking," nor anything violent or involving minors. They are not accused of defrauding the women who worked for Flawless Escorts or of taking an unreasonable cut of their profits. The examples of horrific "rules" imposed on escorts were that they should "travel with multiple outfits and lingerie" and supplies that include candles and fresh towels.

But this is the kind of benign thing the federal government, including the Department of Homeland Security, is increasingly spending its time on—taking down, one by one, any site that lets sex workers use the internet to attract and arrange appointments with clients.

This case started when a Mexican woman was detained and questioned at the Dallas/Forth Worth airport. She said she worked for two escort services, including Flawless Escorts. An investigation soon found Flawless Escort ads posted on the sex marketplace (which may explain HSI's raid of Eros headquarters last fall). Cops also determined that the site was hosted by "a particular cloud computing company located in the Southern District of New York."

Under the new law FOSTA, this cloud computing company could be guilty of a federal crime for knowingly facilitating prostitution advertising. But for now, at least, law enforcement has chosen to leave web hosting companies alone. screenshot

As of now, Martin and Lindo are imprisoned and the American website for Flawless Escorts has been taken down. is still functioning.

Apparently auditioning for the role of comic-book cop, U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said in a statement that "the fatal flaw in Martin and Lindo's alleged scheme was their underestimation of law enforcement's ability to detect and halt their illicit activities."


Everyone is trying to teach Donald Trump economics…and everyone is failing.

For the most part, Trump's party seems OK with that. "Once upon a time," writes Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin, "Republicans warned against government meddling in the markets, picking winners and losers in the economy." But "no more, it seems."


Today in toxic and performative hissy-fits… People are angry at a Netflix series no one has seen yet, because it might be body-shaming. People are also angry at a short Dexter parody video that no one has seen in almost decade, because it comes from Dan Harmon, (liberal) creator of the popular TV show Rick and Morty, and this was yet another chance for scolds on the other side to try to score points. People are terrible. Moving on…


McCaskill milks political clout to get money for her husband. Businesses tied to Joseph Shepherd, the husband of Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), have taken in more than $131 million in federal subsidies since she was elected to Congress, according to a new investigation from the Kansas City Star. McCaskill was elected in 2006. That year, her husband's income from real estate that relies on federal subsidies was somewhere between $1,608 and $16,731. Last year, these investments netted Shepherd between $365,374 and $1,118,158.