“Wrong Numbers is an intriguing and well-researched crime story detailing the intersection of big money and quick sex in the city that contains a lot of both.” – Jack Sheehan, author of Skin City
Was a hacker diverting phone calls meant for Las Vegas escort services? The FBI wanted to know, and so did associates of a New York Mafia family.
In one of the most unusual undercover operations ever, the FBI had an agent acting as a manager in a real Las Vegas escort service.
Federal agents expected to find prostitution and drugs in the Las Vegas escort industry. What their investigation uncovered was even more serious.
“Wiseguys and wannabes are on the hunt for a shadowy hacker who may hold the keys to control of Las Vegas’ multi-million dollar call girl racket, while FBI agents are hunting them. The result is a gripping true-life crime story that reads like a collaboration between Elmore Leonard and Williams Gibson told with the knowing savvy of two longtime chroniclers of Sin City’s hidden underbelly.” – Kevin Poulsen, author of KINGPIN: How One Hacker Took Over the Billion-Dollar Cybercrime Underground
“In ’90s Vegas, call girls worked for “entertainment” services that were little more than phone numbers, dispatchers, and drop safes. When a mystery hacker started diverting customer’s calls to one service’s number, it launched a series of dangerous events that involved the Mob, feds, hackers, service owners, and the phone system itself. This slice of Sin City history is as little-known as it is thrilling, and it’s well-told by investigative journalist Glen Meek and crime writer Dennis Griffin.” – Deke Castleman, author of Whale Hunt in the Desert: Secrets of a Vegas Superhost
From The Book:
In the 1980s and 1990s, escort services and outcall “entertainment” services began to expand explosively, as the Las Vegas Valley became one of the fastest growing population centers in the country. These services were legal on paper: they offered to send an “escort” to serve as a date or arm-candy for a client, or an “entertainer” whose nominal duty was to perform an exotic dance for a customer.
But police stings showed that in case after case, the vast majority of these escorts or entertainers were really call girls, peddling more than a dance or dinner conversation.
Although there were more than 150 of these outcall services licensed in Clark County, Nevada in the late 1990s, most were owned by only a handful of operators. Once again, sex services were being consolidated in the hands of a few people, but this time the amount of money involved easily dwarfed the revenues of a local brothel.
Organized crime figures began to smell the money. And in 1998, according to the FBI, a powerful New York crime family made its move to dominate the outcall entertainment and escort industry in Las Vegas.
But few people—especially wiseguys—were aware of how much the oldest profession was being influenced by the newest technology. Today, you can order practically anything over the internet, from Chinese carry-out to an X-rated dancer. But that wasn’t the case in 1998.
In the 1990s, the heart of the call girl racket was the phone system. No phone calls—no call girls. No call girls—no call girl racket. And somebody in Las Vegas, or so it seemed, had found a way to secretly control the calls, to electronically divert phone calls meant for one escort service and redirect them to a rival service. But whoever had control of the calls wasn’t working for wiseguys. So, according to federal agents, a plan was hatched by elements of organized crime to find the call-diversion mastermind and put him (or her) under the thumb of a Mafia family.
This development would pit old-school Mob methods against state-of-the-art computer hacking techniques. It would be a race against time for FBI agents to figure out what the suspected wiseguys were up to, who they were targeting, and whether the Las Vegas telephone network—and local outcall service owners—were in danger.