Kennebunk Zumba instructor, Thomaston business owner indicted on prostitution charges

The Pura Vida/Zumba Studio in Kennebunk has been the focus of an investigation by Kennebunk police into suspicious activities, including possible prostitution, that began in September 2011.
Matt Wickenheiser | BDN
The Pura Vida/Zumba Studio in Kennebunk has been the focus of an investigation by Kennebunk police into suspicious activities, including possible prostitution, that began in September 2011.
Posted Oct. 03, 2012, at 5:18 p.m.
Last modified Oct. 03, 2012, at 7:27 p.m.

KENNEBUNK, Maine — Alexis Wright, 29, of 32 Baird Lane in Wells, Zumba instructor and owner of the Pura Vida Studio, has been indicted on 106 counts involving alleged prostitution and violation of privacy, as well as 15 tax-related counts.

The York County Superior Court grand jury handed up the indictments late Wednesday. Wright faces multiple counts of engaging in prostitution, a Class E misdemeanor, and violation of privacy, a Class D misdemeanor. The dates of the alleged offenses are between October 2010 and Feb. 13, 2012.

The tax-related counts include failure to pay taxes and unsworn falsification, Class D misdemeanors. Class D crimes can carry a sentence of up to 364 days in jail and a $2,000 fine.

Wright also faces two counts of theft by deception of greater than $10,000, a Class B crime, and evasion of income tax, a Class C crime. Some of the tax charges date back to 2008.

A Class B crime carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a $20,000 fine. A Class C crime is punishable by up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine.

A five-month investigation into alleged prostitution activity based out of the Zumba studio was begun by Kennebunk police in September 2011, which later included the north and south divisions of the Maine State Police Major Crimes Unit, according to Lt. Anthony Bean Burpee of the Kennebunk Police Department.

In July, Mark Strong Sr., 57, of 53 Knox St. in Thomaston, owner of The Strong Agency, was arrested and charged with promotion of prostitution, a Class D misdemeanor, in connection with the investigation. Until Wednesday, he was the only person charged in connection with the investigation.

Strong was also indicted Wednesday, on 59 misdemeanor counts, all involving prostitution, including violation of privacy, promoting prostitution, conspiracy to promote prostitution and conspiracy to commit violation of privacy.

An indictment is not a finding of guilt, but a finding that enough evidence exists to move forward with prosecution.

Deputy District Attorney Justina McGettigan said Wednesday, “We’ll be proceeding with the evidence and putting it forward to the next tribunal.”

Strong is represented by attorney Dan Lilley, while Wright is represented by attorney Sarah Churchill. Neither were available for comment as of press time.

The investigation into the Kennebunk Zumba studio began after anonymous callers told police they heard rumors of prostitution and criminal activities involving a female associate at Pura Vida Studio, according to police. The suspect’s name given by callers was Alexis Wright, the studio’s owner and Zumba instructor, according to an affidavit from July written by Kennebunk Police Officer Audra Presby.

In December, a Kennebunk resident who is also an agent with the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency called Wright, who went by the name “Lydia,” according to the affidavit. The agent recorded the phone conversation in which Wright allegedly agreed to engage in unspecified sexual conduct with the agent for money, according to the affidavit.

Kennebunk police and MDEA agents searched Pura Vida Studio, as well as Wright’s residence at 158 Loop Road in Wells and an office she rented at 1 High St. in Kennebunk, in February. Presby said that during the searches, evidence related to the crimes of engaging, promoting and soliciting prostitution were recovered.

Electronic ledgers detailing sexual acts and their monetary values, hours of video recordings and precise records of Wright’s alleged clients were obtained among the evidence, Presby said. Presby said Wright’s alleged clients didn’t know they were being recorded while engaging in the sexual acts. The electronic ledger showed the fees and acts recorded by Wright would have totaled approximately $150,000, according to Presby.

McGettigan declined to comment on whether further charges against additional individuals would be forthcoming.

To see more from the Journal Tribune, visit journaltribune.com.

SEE COMMENTS →

ADVERTISEMENT | Grow your business
ADVERTISEMENT | Grow your business