Porn king's empire pays feds $6.4M penalty

Web porn king Richard Cohen, a Northeast Philly native, made tens of millions catering to the nation's insatiable appetite for porn
Web porn king Richard Cohen, a Northeast Philly native, made tens of millions catering to the nation's insatiable appetite for porn
Posted: November 02, 2011

ONCE AGAIN, Richard Cohen - Philadelphia's King of Porn - has shown himself to be one of the smartest businessmen on earth.

Not only has Cohen, a Northeast Philly native with humble roots, made tens of millions catering to the nation's insatiable appetite for porn, but yesterday attorneys representing two companies linked to Cohen's sex empire struck a savvy plea deal with federal prosecutors.

The two companies - National A-1 Advertising and R.S. Duffy Inc. - agreed to plead guilty to money laundering and to forfeit $4.9 million in proceeds from Escorts.com, an online red-light district used by prostitutes and johns. The companies also agreed to pay a $1.5 million fine and serve 18 months' probation, according to the plea agreement filed in federal court.

The plea agreement, which is pending court approval, ends a criminal probe that thrust the elusive, homegrown porn baron into the media spotlight. For Cohen, the $6.4 million in penalties is a mere dent in his fortune.

The agreement does not name Cohen, the chief executive of National A-1, and he is not charged with any crime. Cohen's attorney, Andrew L. Miller, declined comment. Joseph P. Grimes, the attorney for R.S. Duffy, did not return a phone call from the Daily News.

The companies, which developed and operated Escorts.com out of an office building on 7th Street near Chestnut, made revenue from women who advertised on the site and men who used it, prosecutors said.

"The defendants received subscription fees and payments in the form of money orders, checks, and credit cards from escorts and users of Escorts.com throughout the nation," U.S. Attorney Peter J. Smith wrote in the filing. "To conduct their operations, the defendants maintained a number of accounts at various financial institutions, investment funds, and financial services providers affecting interstate and foreign commerce."

Under the settlement, the U.S. Attorney's Office will not bring any additional criminal charges against the two companies or Cohen's other ventures, which include Hotmovies.com and PrimeTel Communications. The agreement does not bar the IRS from bringing any tax-related charges and fines.

The money-laundering and criminal-forfeiture charges grew out of a State Police investigation in central Pennsylvania, where a trooper uncovered a link between online prostitution in the Williamsport area and Escorts.com.

Over two days in late October 2010, the State Police and the FBI, joined by the IRS and city police, raided Cohen's corporate offices and carted out more than 80 boxes of evidence.

Cohen shut down Escorts.com in May. At the time, a note on the website read, "We thank you for all your support and wish you the best." Yesterday, the site link, which stated, "This domain is not in use," couldn't be accessed. Under yesterday's agreement, National A-1 and R.S. Duffy must give up the domain name Escorts.com.

It's unclear how much Cohen, who owns an elegant three-story home on Delancey Street and a beachfront mansion in Margate, is worth.

But in 2006, Cohen's HotMovies.com, one of the world's largest distributors of online porn, reportedly grossed at least $20 million. Cohen, along with several business partners, has amassed more than $10 million worth of real estate in and around Society Hill.

Cohen's company, PrimeTel, controls almost 1.7 million 1-800 phone numbers, many of which direct callers to his erotic-chat lines.

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