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Cook County sheriff sues Craigslist for sex ads
'I AM FED UP' | Sheriff sues Craigslist to force site to pull 'erotic services' ads and 'stop facilitating prostitution'

Friday, March 06, 2009
Chicago Sun-Times
by Mark J. Konkol

Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart says he has busted enough prostitutes who were pimped out on Craigslist to know the popular online classified site is the biggest whorehouse in America.

"I am fed up. I am tired and this is going to stop," Dart said.

Dart filed a federal lawsuit Thursday asking a judge to force San Francisco-based Craigslist to eliminate the "erotic services" section of its Web site, where he said most prostitution ads are posted. The lawsuit also asks that Craigslist reimburse Cook County for the salaries of officers who investigate prostitution and human trafficking through the Web site -- a bill of more than $100,000.

"We're asking them to do what frankly they should have been doing all along -- stop facilitating prostitution. Stop being the largest source of prostitution in America," Dart said.

Since January 2007, sheriff's police have arrested 200 people on prostitution charges, juvenile pimping and human trafficking directly connected to Craigslist advertisements. Arrests have ranged from suburban soccer moms to heroin addicts to juveniles, some as young as 14.

A Craigslist spokeswoman said she has not seen Dart's complaint, but the company does cooperate with law enforcement. "Misuse of Craigslist to facilitate criminal activity is unacceptable, and we continue to work diligently to prevent it. Misuse of the site is exceptionally rare compared to how much the site is used for legal purposes," Craigslist CEO Jim Buckmaster said in a written statement.

Craigslist had reached an agreement in November with attorneys general in Connecticut, Illinois and other states that called for the company to crack down on prostitution ads.

Buckmaster said at the time that it would allow legitimate escort services to continue advertising, while discouraging illegal activity by requiring anyone posting "erotic services" ads to provide a working phone number and pay a fee with a valid credit card.

Dart said that didn't change a thing.

A 19-year-old woman recently arrested during a Craigslist prostitution sting told reporters she wound up in a hotel room soliciting sex from an undercover officer after trying to break into modeling in response to an Internet ad. The woman, whose pimp named her "Honey," was being sold for sex on Craigslist for $300 an hour. When the undercover officer met her at a south suburban hotel, he could tell she was a victim, Lt. Michael Anton said. "She was very nervous. You could tell she hadn't done that before," he said.

"Honey," who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said that was her first time and she felt lucky police arrested her.

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