How Seattle Police Busted a Tech-Savvy Sex Ring

A police investigation uncovered a secretive network of male customers, many of whom worked in computer technology fields and were comfortable using those skills to arrange–and rate–sexual rendezvous. “The internet has greased the wheels on illegal sexual exploitation,” said one prosecutor.

The Seattle Times examines how police brought down a secretive, tech-savvy prostitution network in nearby Bellevue. Using pseudonyms like “TomCat007,” “Captain America” and “Tahoe Ted,” the network of men posted thousands of sexually explicit reviews on a carefully curated, Seattle-based website called The Review Board. In great detail, they rated a woman’s performance, energy level and physical attributes, and offered recommendations as if they were reviewing restaurants. While the men came from different, mostly white-collar backgrounds, prosecutors said many were tech workers comfortable using their browsers to shop for what they wanted–and who could afford the $300-an-hour rate for sex.

The Review Board, an online forum for sex buyers since 2001, boasted it had 23,000 members, most of them in the Pacific Northwest, in 2015. There were many other similar sites — more than 100 in King County alone. Together, the websites ensured the women working in expensive Bellevue apartments had a steady stream of customers — and that the customers had a steady supply of new women. “The internet has greased the wheels on illegal sexual exploitation. It’s made it so easy for men to get involved,” said Valiant Richey, a King County prosecutor.