POLL QUESTION

Prostitution probe tying up 3 detectives full time

A pizzeria worker is interviewed by a TV crew in front of the former fitness studio where prostitution has been alleged to have occurred in Kennebunk, Maine, Friday, Oct. 12, 2012.
Robert F. Bukaty | AP
A pizzeria worker is interviewed by a TV crew in front of the former fitness studio where prostitution has been alleged to have occurred in Kennebunk, Maine, Friday, Oct. 12, 2012.
Posted Oct. 17, 2012, at 6:05 p.m.
Last modified Oct. 17, 2012, at 8:54 p.m.

KENNEBUNK, Maine — Three police detectives are working full time going through the evidence seized in the investigation of an alleged prostitution business, with the probe expected to continue for a few more months.

Lt. Anthony Bean Burpee of the Kennebunk Police Department said he does not know how many people will end up being charged with engaging a prostitute as a result of the investigation. The names of 21 people who thus far have been issued summonses for engaging a prostitute have been released publicly. More will be released on Oct. 26.

At least one defense attorney has stated that 150-200 johns might be involved in the case, but Bean Burpee said he does not know how many are being investigated or how many might end up being charged.

One of the Kennebunk Police Department’s officers has been assigned full time to handle the prostitution case since February, when search warrants were executed on the Zumba dance studio where police say Alexis Wright operated a prostitution business. Police also searched Wright’s office in Kennebunk and her home in Wells. Wright, 29, and Mark W. Strong Sr., 57, of Thomaston, were indicted earlier this month in connection with the operation.

Strong was indicted 59 counts, which include promotion of prostitution, invasion of privacy, and conspiracy; and Wright was indicted on 106 counts including charges of engaging in prostitution, violation of privacy and failure to pay taxes.

Last month, two state police detectives also joined the Kennebunk officer in going through the volumes of evidence, the lieutenant said.

“To have an officer taken off the street for a department this small is difficult,” Bean Burpee said. Counting the police chief, the force has 19 employees.

The department has had to fill the investigator’s shift with other officers, increasing the overtime expense for the town, he said, estimating the cost thus far in the thousands of dollars.

The investigators are going through the client list maintained by Wright and then are reviewing all the evidence including the videotapes.

The prosecution said at a court hearing last month that eight terabytes of records were retrieved from the confiscated computers as well as dozens of DVDs and 500 pages of bank records. Police said that Wright kept meticulous records of her clients, the sex acts performed and the amounts charged. Bean Burpee said everyone on that client list would be investigated.

The Kennebunk officer has two roles, he said: to determine the charges of engaging a prostitute but also to work with the York County District Attorney’s Office in Alfred on the Wright and Strong cases.

The search warrant obtained by the department for Wright’s properties was sealed by the court at the request of the prosecution, he said. That seal extends into November and any decision on whether to seek an extension will be made by the district attorney’s office, he said.

Of the 21 alleged clients of Wright who have been charged, one is a lawyer from Kennebunk — 54-year-old Jens W. Bergen, according to Kennebunk police.

Jacqueline Rogers, executive director of the Maine Board of Overseers of the Bar, said Wednesday that there are bar rules that attorneys must adhere to or face possible disciplinary action. She said that no action would be contemplated against any attorney unless that person was convicted.

Lawyers in Maine must register each year and are required to inform the Board if they have been convicted of a crime. She said some attorneys self report when there have been convictions and sometimes the court will inform the Board.

She said any action against an attorney would depend on a conviction. Rogers said she cannot recall the Board having to deal before with any attorney convicted of engaging a prostitute.

The Board assists the Maine Supreme Judicial Court in handling complaints against attorneys.

The bar rule on a criminal conviction states: “Upon the filing with the Court by Bar Counsel of a certificate of the clerk of any court establishing that an attorney has been convicted of a crime demonstrating unfitness to engage in the practice of law, whether the conviction resulted from a plea of guilty or nolo contendere or from a verdict after trial or otherwise, the Court shall, if satisfied that the crime demonstrates unfitness to practice law, enter an order to show cause why the attorney should not be immediately suspended from the practice of law, regardless of the pendency of an appeal of the conviction, pending final disposition of any disciplinary proceeding commenced upon such conviction. The Court, after affording the attorney opportunity to be heard, may make such order of suspension as may be advisable in the interest of the public, the Bar and the Court.”

Rogers also pointed out that the Maine rules of professional conduct state that a lawyer could be disciplined for misconduct for committing “a criminal or unlawful act that reflects adversely on the lawyer’s honesty, trustworthiness or fitness as a lawyer in other respects.”

Similar articles:

ADVERTISEMENT | Grow your business
The Forecaster
ADVERTISEMENT | Grow your business