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Monday, February 23, 2009

The "Most Powerful Man In Prostitution" Arrested

Posted By on Mon, Feb 23, 2009 at 1:32 PM

This juicy little item slipped through the cracks when it happened last week but it's worth 
  • Maricopa County Sheriff's Department mug shot
mentioning now, if only to shed a little light on the life of a kingpin from the Internet's seedy underbelly.

David Elms, creator of the popular escort Web site The Erotic Review, was arrested last week in Phoenix on charges of attempted murder, assault with a deadly weapon, sale of narcotics, possession of drug paraphernalia and illegal possession of a weapon.

In a story last year about Elms and his legal woes from another drug case, The New York Times called Elms the most powerful man in prostitution" and dubbed his site the of the online sex trade.

The Erotic Review (link definitely NSFW) allows escorts to post information (i.e. all the gooey details) about themselves and their services. Men then write reviews of their experience and rate each woman on a scale of 1 to 10.

I interviewed Elms for an RFT feature story about escort Web sites last year (OldestProfession 2.0). Here's what he had to say then:

The practice of posting online reviews of escorts dates back about ten years. David Elms, creator of The Erotic Review (, claims his Web site was one of the first to encourage men to provide feedback about their clandestine encounters. Reached by phone in his Southern California office, Elms explains that he got the idea after being ripped off by a call girl. 

"It was a way that people could be held accountable for their actions in this industry," Elms says. "Now girls prefer that they find clients on The Erotic Review. It already tells a guy all the juicy details, so he doesn't have to ask stupid questions." 

Elms says his Web site, created in 1999, now attracts more than 300,000 visitors a day, and that half of the site's users log on more than once a day. He collects information about each person who registers an account and says the average hobbyist is between 35 and 55 years old with a median income of $80,000.

Apparently Phoenix police were investigating another Internet prostitution ring called the "Desert Divas," when they found out Elms was plotting to commit murder for hire. 

Elms' site is just one of dozens of mega-hubs for online hookers but it is one of the most well-known and widely used. According to the Times article, accusations that Elms demanded sex in exchange for positive reviews and access to his site have circulated for years. One escort agency even sued him, claiming that when he blackballed them from his site it violated federal anti-trust laws. 

The blog for the Phoenix New Times, our sister paper in Arizona, has all the details about his latest arrest, including a press release from the Maricopa County Sheriff's Department and a screen capture from Elms' site. They also point out that Elms' next online endeavor will probably have something to do with prison sex.

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