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Credit: KUOW photo/Kate Walters

Head of Bellevue sex ring sentenced

In 2015, the Bellevue Police Department and the King County Sheriff's Office started a large investigation into the local online sex trade.

The investigation ended up shutting down numerous brothels run out of luxury apartments in Bellevue, as well as several websites that hosted advertisements for sex workers and allowed buyers to rate and review the women.

Investigators homed in on a select group of frequent users of the sites, some of whom ran and funded the sites, according to court documents. This exclusive group called themselves the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.

In total, 33 people were charged as a result of the investigation. All but one — Charles Peters — entered guilty pleas. Prosecutors described Peters as the leader of The League and someone who not only bought sex but actively promoted prostitution in the area.

Peters took his case to trial and was found guilty of nine felony counts of promoting prostitution by a jury. He was sentenced Thursday to more than three and a half years in prison. The judge allowed Peters to post a $75,000 bond and remain free while his appeal is pending.

Prosecutors tout the outcome of this investigation and the crackdown on the local online sex trade as a victory. But some sex workers argue that shutting down online platforms does more harm than good.

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They say these online platforms allow them to screen clients, which keeps them safer. With the shutdown of both local and national sites (like Backpage.com), some of these sex workers have said that more of them are being pushed to dangerous tracks for women, like Aurora Avenue North.

Click on the audio link to hear KUOW reporter Kate Walters discuss the case, the sentencing and the broader issue of targeting online prostitution sites with host Kim Malcolm.