Operators of an internet site selling sexual services were indicted in a Tel Aviv court on Wednesday.
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The indictment is unusual as it is one of the few attempts in recent years to enforce a 2011 law that bans prostitution.
The olsex.co.il website is charged with pimping, advertising sexual services, soliciting prostitution, false registration, money laundering, tax offenses, obstruction of justice and destroying evidence.
Around 670 internet sites in Israel were marketing sexual services when the Public Security and Social Affairs Ministries carried out a survey of the issue last year.
According to the indictment, Nina Pirshet, 58, ran the olsex site from 2011 to 2016. Her partner Daniel Lederman Doron, 76, her son Oleg Pirshet and his wife Ina helped her in running it for various periods during this time. Over these years, Nina Pirshet, her son and daughter-in-law published hundreds of ads (some 80 a month) offering sex services on olsex as well as on mirror sites operating under different web addresses.
Other defendants include computer programmer Alexander Loskotov, 43, who set up the site, created the managing account and a bank of nude photos to run it, and Oren Peso, 45, owner of a media advertising company – Luach Media Pirsumon – that published ads from olsex on other sites and in the print media.
Nina Pirshet, her son and daughter-in-law were responsible for the ads’ content in coordination with clients. The three also enabled customers paying for sex to publish “reviews” of the services they had received on the site.
The costs ranged from 400 to 800 shekels ($113 to $226) per ad per month, with additional charges of 1,200 to 2,000 shekels for promoting the ads and putting them in prominent places.
The indictment says Nina and Oleg Pirshet received millions of shekels from the pimps, brothel runners and sex workers. In addition, Nina Pirshet tried to persuade women to become prostitutes by publishing dozens of want ads on olsex and the other sites, including direct calls offering women a lot of money and good conditions.
A law banning ads for sexual services was enacted in March 2011, and since then, anyone advertising such services became liable for three years in prison or a 226,000-shekel fine.
However, the law was rarely enforced and did not act as a deterrent. According to the Public Security Ministry, there have only been 13 convictions for publishing prostitution ads since 2011. In all these cases, the penalties were suspended sentences and fines of up to 100,000 shekels.
Idit Harel Shemesh, who runs the nongovernmental organization Mitos – The Day After Prostitution, lauded the indictment and said she hoped it indicated increased police efforts to enforce the law.
“Shutting one site isn’t enough and we must ensure that the penalty isn’t light but is a deterrent and includes actual prison time,” she said.