PHOENIX, Ariz.- The founder of the escort rating and information site TheEroticReview.com was arrested Monday on charges of conspiracy to commit murder and conspiracy to commit aggravated assault.
Police say David Elms allegedly hired a hit man to kill an Internet porn model who is suing him in federal court in Los Angeles, and to injure the owner of the Phoenix-based website SexWork.com.
Elms, 38, from Hawthorne, Calif., was booked at the Maricopa County jail not long after his arrival in Phoenix from California. The arrest is connected to a prostitution investigation into the area's "Desert Divas" escort service.
Attorney Michael Fattorosi confirmed the threatened woman is his client, a 32-year-old model from Long Beach, Calif.
The woman filed a "Jane Doe" lawsuit against Elms in November, claiming that he registered a website domain in her real name to defame her and inflict emotional distress. Doe further alleges that Elms published her home address on TheEroticReview.com, and sent letters to her family and friends revealing her work in the sex industry.
Fattorosi identified the other alleged victim as "Dave in Phoenix," the 62-year-old operator of the website SexWork.com.
SexWork.com has frequently attacked Elms and The Erotic Review in its editorial content. The owner has posted a message on the site that reads: "I am not going to go into details at this time since I am working with the Phoenix Police major crimes unit and with police protection considerations."
Fattorosi expressed surprise at Elms' low bail, set at $150,000.
"I would have anticipated that crimes such as these would require a higher bail amount, especially since he is out of state," he said.
In addition to conspiracy to commit murder and aggravated assault, Elms was booked on one count of conspiracy to possess narcotic drugs for sale, one count of conspiracy to commit misconduct involving weapons, and one count of possession of drug paraphernalia.
According to the Arizona Republic and Phoenix New Times, the police received a tip from an informant tied to the department's Desert Divas investigation that Elms sought the murder of the female victim and the serious injury of the male victim.
Investigators met with Elms after his arrival in Phoenix from California just after midnight on February 15. He was arrested some 30 minutes later after probable cause was determined by officers from the Phoenix Police Department's Special Assignments Unit.
"Obviously with a murder-for-hire case you have to get on it right away," Sgt. Hill said.
The Desert Divas case is still under investigation and has been called the largest prostitution bust in Arizona history, linked to rings in New Mexico and Pennsylvania.
Last week, Phoenix police released the names of thousands of clients found in the escort service's ledgers and said as many as 50 additional suspects involved in the operation are under investigation.
A June 2008 New York Times story called Elms "the most influential man in the prostitution business in America." But that notoriety has brought trouble.
In 2006, Elms was arrested for possession of a firearm and drugs.
Los Angeles County deputy district attorney Jodi Michelle Link, who specializes in sex and vice crimes, told the Times that police responded to a call and found Elms in a hotel with a loaded semi-automatic weapon and nearly four grams of cocaine. A prostitute present claimed Elms forced her to orally service him, but Link said there was not enough evidence to pursue that charge.
This past summer, Elms appeared in a California court after he failed several drug tests, which authorities considered a probation violation of the 2006 conviction
An Arizona escort agency, MystiqueUSA, accused Elms of antitrust violations when it was banned from his site, but later withdrew the complaint.
TheEroticReview.com reportedly receives as many as 1 million monthly visitors. In addition to escort and massage reviews, the site features website reviews, national and regional discussion boards, and live chat rooms.