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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Southern District of New York

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, February 11, 2020

United States Attorney Announces Money Laundering Charges Against Operators Of Multimillion-Dollar Nationwide High-End Prostitution Enterprise

Geoffrey S. Berman, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Peter C. Fitzhugh, Special Agent in Charge of the Department of Homeland Security’s (“DHS”) Homeland Security Investigations (“HSI”) in New York, and Dermot Shea, the Commissioner of the New York City Police Department (“NYPD”), announced today the arrest of TRACY REYNOLDS, a/k/a “Sara,” and IZHAK COHEN, for money laundering and conspiracy to commit money laundering in connection with their ownership and operation of VIP Escorts, a nationwide multimillion-dollar business offering high end prostitution services, as well as the seizure of bank accounts and 391 websites related to the VIP Escorts business.  REYNOLDS was arrested this morning at Tampa International Airport while boarding a flight to Mexico and was presented today in Tampa federal court.  COHEN was arrested by Israeli authorities in Hadera, Israel.  The United States Attorney’s Office will seek COHEN’s extradition to stand trial in the United States.

According to the allegations in the Complaint sworn out in Manhattan federal court:[1] 

From at least 2012 to the present, REYNOLDS and COHEN have operated an online high-end prostitution business through their company and its affiliates known as “VIP Escorts.”  VIP Escorts maintains a website, http://wvvw.vipescorts.com (the “VIP Escorts Website”), which it used to promote its prostitution services and was registered to COHEN.  VIP Escorts also operates an array of affiliated escort websites, which also advertised its prostitution services, with names such as “Prestige Escorts,” “American Escorts,” “Russian Escorts,” and “Manhattan Exotics,” all of which are registered to COHEN. 

As part of their prostitution business, REYNOLDS and COHEN arranged for escorts to meet clients in Manhattan and in numerous other locations for prostitution services, charging them thousands of dollars.  REYNOLDS and COHEN required escorts to deposit the proceeds of their commercial sex acts into a large number of bank accounts that they controlled, many of them in the name of fake entities.  REYNOLDS and COHEN then laundered the money through thousands of domestic and international financial transactions.  In total, over $10 million passed through various personal and business accounts controlled by REYNOLDS during the course of this conspiracy, and over $1 million was sent from REYNOLDS in the United States to COHEN in Israel in thousands of small transactions designed to conceal the nature, location, source, ownership, and control of the proceeds.

REYNOLDS and COHEN then used the proceeds of the prostitution scheme for personal gain and to further their illegal prostitution business.  They paid, for example, over $295,000 from bank accounts under their control to advertise the VIP Escorts business on a known advertising platform for the prostitution industry.   

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REYNOLDS, 45, of Alamosa, Colorado, and Cohen, 53, of Hadera, Israel, are each charged with one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, and two counts of money laundering, each of which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.  The maximum potential sentences in this case are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendants will be determined by the judge.

Mr. Berman praised the outstanding investigative work of HSI, NYPD, and the El Dorado Task Force, and expressed his sincere gratitude to the Israel National Police and the Israel Ministry of Justice for their support and assistance with the investigation.  He also thanked the Office of International Affairs of the U.S. Department of Justice for their assistance in the arrest of COHEN.

This case is being handled by the Office’s General Crimes Unit.  Assistant United States Attorney Michael R. Herman is in charge of the prosecution.

The charge contained in the Complaint is merely an accusation, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

 

[1] As the introductory phrase signifies, the entirety of the text of the Complaint and the description of the Complaint set forth herein constitute only allegations, and every fact described should be treated as an allegation.

Topic(s): 
Financial Fraud
Contact: 
Jim Margolin, Nicholas Biase (212) 637-2600
Press Release Number: 
20-050
Updated February 11, 2020