Avid Life Media, the embattled parent company of cheating website Ashley Madison, secretly operated an online escort service, recently leaked documents reveal. The company was allegedly actively recruiting escorts for a separate "dating" website that was aimed at "sugar daddies".
According to the Daily Dot, which first reported the news, one of the company's sites, escorts.ca, is similar to other online directories for escort services which have triggered anti-prostitution raids by US law enforcement authorities. The website was reportedly leased though a shell company called Pernimus Limited in 2013.
Pernimus Limited was listed as one of ALM's "legal entities" on an internal company memo, the Daily Dot reported. Among the thousands of documents leaked by the hacker group named Impact Team was a contract in which ALM leased the escort-service property from a company called Steeltown Marketing Inc. on 20 February 2013.
The leaked contract, dated 14 March 2013 said the escort website was acquired under a "10-year lease for use by Ashley Madison". Avid Life Media was set to receive 65% of the profits, while the site's "landlord" would receive 35%. According to the Daily Dot, ALM was required to make a minimum payment of $800 a month to its partner, two months from the contract date.
The escort website was reportedly active until around 6pm EST on 1 September, when it was suddenly suspended, the Daily Dot reported. However, before it was removed, at least five individuals listed on the website confirmed they were still offering escort services.
According to the leaked documents, ALM intended to use the escort site to funnel traffic to Ashley Madison and its other websites. ALM noted that "[u]ltimately building escorts.ca up with real content as an escort listing service would best leverage the quality of the domain."
The Daily Dot reported that both the US Justice Department and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police were conducting investigations into the hacked Ashley Madison website.
Other emails leaked in the massive hack revealed that ALM executives actively recruited escorts for its website Arrangement Finders, which runs under the slogan "Intimacy with a Twi$t." One ALM employee identified as John Santoro worked for Arrangement Finders and reportedly owns a number of escort-related domain names.
Santoro contacted Ashley Madison CEO Noel Biderman to inform him of his varied escort-recruitment efforts. Biderman was ultimately forced to resign after details of his own affairs on his websites was revealed.