RIVERSIDE, Calif. – Two Israeli nationals were arrested on suspicion of running a massive Palm Springs prostitution ring that employed more than 240 women in several Western states and generated millions of dollars, authorities said.
The men operated Elite Entertainment, which posed as an escort service in online and newspaper advertisements, according to court documents.
For at least three years, the business managed more than 80 phone lines, where clients across California, Nevada, Oregon and Arizona could call an 800 number and request an escort. The suspects would then dispatch prostitutes, who charged between $200 to $2,000 for sexual services, Riverside County Sheriff Bob Doyle said Monday.
Boaz Benmoshe, 44, and Ofer Moses Lupovitz, 43, were among seven people arrested last week for investigation of pimping, pandering, perjury, loan fraud, money laundering, falsifying income tax returns and grand theft, Doyle said. He described Benmoshe and Lupovitz as the ringleaders.
Authorities say the suspects used the money to fraudulently secure loans for million-dollar homes around the Coachella Valley.
"They were living large," Doyle said.
During a 2 1/2-year probe, undercover detectives called for escorts who worked for Elite Entertainment to be sent to hotel rooms in several locations and arrested them after money was exchanged for the promise of sex.
Authorities also seized about 15 computers and $5 million in unspecified assets. Officials said the investigation was continuing and that more arrests were likely.
The suspects include Benmoshe's wife, Melanie Ann Smith, 24, and Russian nationals Moti M. Vintrov, 33, and Eliran Vintrov, 28, plus their spouses. Bail amounts were set from $25,000 to $1.5 million, according to court records. Arraignment was scheduled for Aug. 21.
No telephone number was listed for Benmoshe, of Rancho Mirage. The office of Elite Entertainment, which went by several names, has been vacant for several months.