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California pair arrested over prostitution website

By Madeleine Thomas

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - An adult website that prosecutors say hooked up prostitutes with clients, under a thin disguise of offering strip club reviews, has been shut down and the website's two Northern California operators were arrested, federal authorities said on Thursday.

Eric “Red” Omuro, 53, of Mountain View near San Francisco, and his assistant, Annemarie “Maddie” Lanoce, 40, were charged in an indictment earlier this week with using the Internet to facilitate prostitution.

Federal prosecutors said the two were arrested on Wednesday in connection with the operations of the website, myredbook.com. Omuro also was charged with over 20 counts of money laundering for moving myredbook.com revenue into bank accounts he controlled, they said.

The myredbook.com website gained attention in May in connection with the death of a Sacramento woman whom police say was killed by her live-in boyfriend, a battalion chief for a California wildland fire agency. Police said the fire chief, who has been charged with murder, met the woman through myredbook.com.

Myredbook.com claimed to offer “escort, massage, and strip club reviews,” but FBI agents found it also hosted advertisements for prostitutes with explicit photos, menus of sexual services and hourly and nightly rates, federal prosecutors said.

Federal authorities are seeking the forfeiture of over $5 million in assets and funds, including Omuro's BMW, that prosecutors said was derived from the prostitution trade.

In addition to targeting myredbook.com, U.S. authorities seized the domain name of a related site, sfredbook.com, and shut it down as well, prosecutors said.

An attorney for Omuro and Lanoce could not be reached for comment. Lanoce pleaded not guilty on Wednesday and was released on bail of $250,000, according to court records.

A U.S. District Court judge set a hearing for Friday for Omuro, who was released on bail of $500,000, to enter a plea.

(Writing by Alex Dobuzinskis; Editing by Leslie Adler)