3 fined in Brewer online prostitution case

Posted May 14, 2009, at 11:25 a.m.

BANGOR, Maine — Three of the seven women accused of participating in a prostitution ring involving Craigslist and other online sites were ordered Thursday to pay a $500 fine each.

So far, no other escorts or their clients have been charged, Brewer police Detective Sgt. Jay Munson said Thursday.

Aimee Bernard, 19, of Bangor pleaded guilty in 3rd District Court to promotion of prostitution. Both Jolena Glidden, 25, of Bangor and Kimberly Oakley, 28, of Brewer pleaded no contest to the same charge. All three pleas resulted in convictions for the Class D misdemeanor.

Bernard also pleaded guilty to the civil violation of possession of drug paraphernalia and was ordered to pay a $300 fine, the mandatory minimum fine.

A fourth woman, Alicia Gray, 23, of Kenduskeag, pleaded not guilty Thursday to promotion of prostitution. The Penobscot County District Attorney’s Office is asking that Gray serve some jail time because it is the second time she has been charged with that offense.

Gray was convicted of the crime last year in Bangor and in March 2008 was sentenced to pay a $500 fine. On Thursday, she applied for a court-appointed attorney. A trial in her case was set for June 23 in District Court.

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The most recent charges stemmed from an incident last month when police in Brewer used Craigslist and other online advertising sites to order six female escorts and arranged to meet them at an undisclosed Wilson Street motel.

The prostitution sting resulted in charges against a total of six local women and Michelle Powers-Jenkins, 42, of Orland, who is the owner and operator of an escort service called Cinnamon’s Sweets, which until recently was located on North Main Street in Brewer. Powers-Jenkins, Amanda Shaw, 29, and Coleen Singer, 26, also were charged with the promotion of prostitution. They were not scheduled to appear in court on Thursday.

All seven women were charged with promotion of prostitution. The maximum sentence for the crime is up to a year in jail and a fine of up to $2,000. The women’s court appearance came one day after Craigslist announced it will drop its “erotic services” category in response to complaints from law enforcement officials that it was being used as a front for prostitution. The category will be replaced with one listing “adult services.”

Craigslist is a free online classified ad site set up for people to sell items and to network. The site includes a warning and disclaimer, advising users to bring to the company’s attention prohibited entries such as solicitation for prostitution.

The company also has announced that a fee now will be charged for advertisements for “adult services,” and employees will monitor every posting before it appears online. In the past, the site has been criticized for not implementing that precaution, The Associated Press reported.

After the women were arrested on April 2 and 3, Munson told the Bangor Daily News that he and other officers had visited Craigslist or similar sites a few days earlier.

“We started making phone calls and making appointments,” Munson said. “We ordered up five girls,” but during the process “we were able to order a sixth girl. Three of them came from Cinnamon’s Sweets.”

The women showed up one or two at a time to meet with an undercover officer who purportedly had hired them as escorts or to perform private exotic dances. Two of the women who advertised on Craigslist and worked for Cinnamon’s Sweets charged the undercover officer $175 each to show up, plus a $100 tip each, police said. Soon after the women arrived, however, negotiations for additional “services” began, Munson said last month.

“The price haggling started with $150 to $200 for the girls to have sex together, and [with an additional] $100 apiece the undercover [officer] could do whatever he wanted,” the detective told the BDN. “There were some exceptions. Each girl had things they wouldn’t do. “Through our investigation, we were quoted prices anywhere between $200 and $1,000,” Munson said. The deals were captured on hidden audio recorders and video cameras set up in the motel room.

Bernard, Shaw and Glidden reportedly worked for Cinnamon’s Sweets, and Powers-Jenkins is the madam of the decade-old escort service, according to the detective.

“She would require the $175 fee [ahead of time] and it could be run through a credit card [machine] with a service charge added,” Munson said. “But the girls would need to be paid in cash. She would then meet up with them and divide what was collected.”

As a result of the April 2 nighttime operation, Powers-Jenkins’ Orland home was searched around 6:45 p.m. the next day and she, too, was charged with promotion of prostitution.

“We found ledgers or appointment books with names of clients — customers — employees and contact information for both,” the detective said last month. Credit card slips and documents of sales also were collected from her home, according to Munson. While police and prosecutors routinely decline to talk about ongoing investigations, inquiries into Cinnamon’s Sweets’ operation may not be over.

“The Brewer Police Department is interested in who their customers were because they have engaged in illegal behavior as well,” Penobscot County District Attorney R. Christopher Almy said Thursday afternoon. “In my opinion, if we are genuine in our desire to deter prostitution, we should be focusing as much on the buyers of sex as we are the sellers. If we are successful identifying the buyers, that would be a deterrent in and of itself.”

Bangor Daily News writer Nok-Noi Ricker contributed to this report.

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