THOMASTON, Maine — The attorney representing insurance company owner Mark W. Strong Sr. said that his client had been investigating claims by the owner of a Kennebunk dance studio that she was being harassed by that town’s police department.
Strong, 56, of Thomaston, was arrested July 10 in Thomaston and charged with promotion of prostitution. The arrest warrant had been obtained by the Kennebunk Police Department.
Attorney Daniel Lilley of Portland said Wednesday that the owner of the Pura Vida/Zumba Studio in Kennebunk had hired Strong, who also is a licensed private investigator, to investigate her claims that the Kennebunk Police Department was harassing her. The Bangor Daily News is not naming the woman because she has not been charged with any crimes.
Lilley said all of Strong’s investigative records, including the one concerning Kennebunk, were seized July 10 by the Maine State Police when they executed search warrants for Strong’s insurance office and his home.
The attorney said he had just recently been hired by Strong, who is free on $5,000 bail, and did not have more details on the alleged harassment.
Lilley said Strong had a business connection with the studio owner since he loaned her money for her Zumba operation. The defense attorney said Strong denies being involved in the promotion of prostitution.
“Absolutely,” responded Lilley when asked if Strong denies the charge.
Strong is scheduled to make his first court appearance in September in Biddeford District Court.
Lilley said there was no wrongdoing by Strong in loaning her money for her dance studio, which police allege in papers filed in the Biddeford court was involved in prostitution. The attorney said if a bank loans a customer money and the customer commits a crime the bank is not liable.
Lilley stressed he does not know what involvement the dance studio owner has in any alleged crimes. The Portland attorney pointed out, however, that no one has been charged with prostitution.
“I can’t understand why he has been charged and no one else. This is an odd case,” Lilley said.
Kennebunk police said in an affidavit filed in court to obtain the arrest warrant for Strong that he had a significant business and personal connection to the dance studio.
Lt. Anthony Bean Burpee of the Kennebunk Police Department said Wednesday that the agency has not harassed the studio owner or anyone.
“We are engaged in the business of investigating claims of harassment. We do not engage in that conduct,” he said.
He said the department will handle the case in the courts and not the media.
The department spokesman said it could take several months before charges are filed against other individuals.
The investigation began in September when Kennebunk police received anonymous telephone calls from citizens who believed there were suspicious activities going on at the dance studio at 8 York St. in Kennebunk, according to the affidavit. Police officials received additional rumors that there was possible prostitution going on at the studio.
Witnesses who work near the studio reported that motor vehicles would pull up to the rear of the studio day and night with men going inside the building for about 30 minutes to an hour at a time, according to the affidavit in the Strong case.
In December, a Maine Drug Enforcement Agency officer placed a telephone call, which was recorded, and made an appointment in which a woman, identified as the studio owner, agreed to engage in sexual conduct for money.
The landlord of a building at 1 High St. in Kennebunk contacted police in February and said that he had received reports from other business tenants of a lot of “moaning and groaning” from the office space and that they also reported men stopping there for 30 minutes to an hour. According to the affidavit, that second-floor office had been rented by the Zumba studio owner. The two buildings — one at 1 High and the other at 8 York — are close to each other in Kennebunk, separated only by a street.
The landlord at 1 High St. said he went to the office space one time in February and saw a massage table and a camcorder on a tripod. The landlord said he also found a website where the woman was performing a sexual act on herself and recognized the surroundings as the building he owns.
Based on this information, police obtained search warrants and, on Feb. 14, searched the studio at 8 York St., the office at 1 High St. and the zumba instructor’s home in Wells.
Police seized electronic client ledgers which included video recordings of the woman performing sex acts on males, reportedly without the males being aware of the recordings, according to the affidavit. The ledgers listed detailed records of payments and police found that the acts generated income of about $150,000, according to the affidavit, which attributes the amount to the woman’s Maine tax filings.
The review of those records determined that Strong had a significant business and personal connection to these illegal acts, according to the affidavit. The police said they found significant bank records, insurance documents and telephone records of the connection.
On a video seized by police, the woman is talking on Skype with Strong and is asking him to run motor vehicle registration information.
The affidavit further states that Strong, who also is a private investigator, has used the Bureau of Motor Vehicle records to query potential clients for the woman and other individuals. Lilley said those searches included ones connected to his investigation of the harassment claims by police.
Search warrants executed at the studio and offices in Kennebunk and at the woman’s home in Wells have been sealed and are likely to remain so until August or September, according to earlier statements by police.