BREWER, Maine — Undercover police investigating drug use and its link to prostitution and other crimes recently hired four local female escorts who each agreed to have sex for money. The four were then charged, Brewer police Lt. Chris Martin said Thursday.
Misty Ahmed, 27, and Heather Hamm, 28, both of Bangor, and Donna Fonseca, 21, and Karina Dubrowski, 21, both of Brewer, were summoned for engaging in prostitution in the May 17 sting. A fifth person, Anthony Rowe, 23, of Brewer, who is Dubrowski’s boyfriend, was charged with promotion of prostitution.
“We used an undercover officer and basically we called them up and made an appointment,” Martin said of the women. “They were taken into custody and charged after they agreed to perform sexual acts in exchange for money with the undercover officer.
“In each case, the officer asked how much a particular sex service would cost, whether it be full sex, fellatio or something along those lines, and the subject would give a price,” he said. “Money would be flashed and an agreement would be made to perform the service.”
Then the rest of the countercrime team entered the undisclosed Wilson Street motel room and took custody of the women one after the other. The deals were captured on hidden audio and video recorders set up in the motel room.
Brewer police found the women on the website Backpage — listed under the aliases Sarah, Eve, Lexus and Payton — and targeted them under the department’s counterdrug, countercrime task force because “all of them had prior involvements with police,” Martin said.
“There is a direct correlation between addiction and crimes being committed,” he said.
Dubrowski, Hamm and Ahmed all have been convicted of unlawful possession of scheduled drugs within the last seven months, according to court listings printed in the Bangor Daily News. Rowe was convicted of theft by receiving stolen property in March, the BDN archives state.
The Backpage website has more than 60 listings posted under “escort services” in Maine, including links for the four woman charged by Brewer police.
“I don’t think [the charges] will put a stop to it because of the substance abuse,” Martin said. “They’re all still advertising.”
But the sting sends a message to criminals that Brewer is on the lookout, according to Martin.
“If you are going to set up shop here, we’ll be by to talk to you,” he said, adding, “Anything we do is a means to achieve … a safer environment in the city.”
Many Mainers are addicted to drugs, especially diverted prescription drugs, and are breaking the law to feed their addiction, Martin noted.
“That is the driving force behind most of the crimes police respond to,” he said.
Drug addicts are to blame for a troubling increase in the state’s crime rate, Public Safety Commissioner John E. Morris said Tuesday, a fact Brewer police have stressed for a decade, according to Martin.
Backpage features an array of services and items for sale and has an adult escort section that Maine Attorney General William Schneider and his counterparts from across the country say is being used to advertise prostitution services.
Under its adult services section, Backpage connects clients to escorts, body rubs, strippers, strip clubs, domination and fetish providers, transsexuals, male escorts, adult jobs and pornographic websites.
Schneider and 45 other attorneys general sent a letter to an attorney for Backpage last year saying the website’s efforts to limit prostitution ads have proven ineffective.
“Nearly naked persons in provocative positions are pictured in nearly every adult services advertisement on Backpage.com and the site [allows] advertisements for escorts, and other similar ‘services,’ to include hourly rates,” the Aug. 31, 2011, letter from the National Association of Attorneys General states. “It does not take forensic training to understand that these advertisements are for prostitution.”
The recent prostitution charges are not the first time Brewer police have busted women for selling their bodies. Six local women and the owner of a Bangor escort service that had been around for more than a dozen years were caught in a 2009 Brewer police prostitution sting.
The madam, a convicted Bangor prostitute who went by the name “Cinnamon” on Craigslist when she was busted by Brewer officers, now is using Backpage and is calling herself “Delight” in her escort advertisements.
All seven women were charged with promotion of prostitution, a Class D misdemeanor. “Delight” was convicted on four counts and was fined $2,000.
Four women and seven men were charged last year in a prostitution sting in Cumberland County by police who used Backpage, and 47 were charged in Florida during a three-day sting in March when police in the Sunshine State used the Internet site as a tool to catch the suspects.
The website Craigslist removed its erotic services section in May 2009 and shut down its adult services section in September 2010. That same month, several attorneys general, including Maine’s Janet Mills, tried unsuccessfully to get Backpage to follow suit.
Backpage officials have balked at the idea, saying it’s an infringement of their First Amendment rights. A lawyer for Backpage could not be reached for comment on Thursday.
One reason police pursue prostitution cases, especially those involving drug addicts, is to eradicate associated crimes such as robbery, theft and assault, Martin said.
“We’re finding drug addiction and abuse [are] driving criminal behaviors,” the lieutenant said.
Backpage also has been linked to the death of a missing Lewiston woman who advertised escort services on the Internet site and was killed on July 1 by the brother of her madam, according to the police affidavit filed in the October arrest of Buddy Robinson.
Police charged Robinson, 30, of Lewiston with murder in the death of Christiana Melusine Fesmire, 22, after conducting a lengthy investigation that included an undercover prostitution probe involving Fesmire, Brandi Robinson — Buddy’s sister and Fesmire’s madam — and a woman from Canada who admitted to engaging in prostitution using Backpage.
“There is a huge discussion out in the general population that says this is a victimless crime,” Martin said.
“This is not a victimless crime” he stressed, listing spouses, children, other loved ones and the prostitutes themselves — “especially if they are addicts” — as victims.