PORTLAND, Maine — The trial of a Massachusetts man accused of taking three women to Boston to work as prostitutes is scheduled to begin Monday and is expected to shine a light on sex trafficking in Maine.
Fritz “Fred” Blanchard, 29, was scheduled in May to plead guilty in U.S. District Court to one count of transportation in interstate commerce for prostitution.
U.S. District Judge Nancy Torresen set the case for trial after Blanchard told her he didn’t understand what the government could offer him in exchange for his guilty plea.
Blanchard’s co-defendant, Samuel C. Gravely, 27, of Portland, did not enter into a plea agreement with Assistant U.S. Attorney Gail Malone, who is prosecuting the case, when he pleaded guilty to the same charge in November. Gravely is scheduled to be sentenced Sept. 23.
The two men were childhood friends who lost touch with each other over the years but reconnected in 2011, according to Malone’s trial brief.
“Sometime, thereafter, the two began making money by prostituting women,” the prosecutor wrote.
Information about how they persuaded women to work as prostitutes is not included in court documents.
The facts outlined in the brief focus on events in March 2013, when on at least two occasions, Blanchard, nicknamed “Shake,” and Gravely, whose nickname was “Bigs,” brought a woman, identified only as Victim A, from Presque Isle to Bangor for prostitution.
“An advertisement depicting Victim A and offering escort services was first posted on backpage.com under the ‘Maine Escorts’ on March 23, 2013,” the brief said. “The photo in the ad was taken at a motel in Bangor, where guest records show Gravely rented a room on March 13, 14, and 25.”
Backpage.com is a website that allows people to post classified advertisements, including ones for “adult services,” such as escorts.
On March 26 and 27, 2013, the trio was in Portland, according to the trial brief. Each day, one of the men rented a motel room, took pictures of Victim A in the motel, posted them on backpage.com and waited for customers to call.
While Victim A was seeing customers March 27, 2013, Blanchard and Gravely went into downtown Portland and enlisted Victim B into prostitution, the brief said. An advertisement that included photographs of her taken in the motel room was posted on backpage.com.
The next day, the men invited a third woman they met in downtown Portland, identified as Victim C, to travel with them to Boston. She thought she would be sightseeing and shopping in the Hub, according to a previously published report.
After the group got to Boston and checked into a hotel, Blanchard allegedly dropped off Victims A and C on a section of Huntington Avenue known to be frequented by prostitutes, the trial brief said. He also allegedly told her what to charge for different sex acts and demanded she give him all the money.
“After spending several hours on the street, Victim C got scared and claimed to be sick,” the prosecutor said in the brief. “[Blanchard] therefore called Gravely, who picked them back up. They returned to the hotel, where Victim C broke from the group and called police.”
The men were charged in federal court in Portland on Oct. 21. Gravely was arrested the next day. Blanchard was arrested in Massachusetts on Dec. 10. The circumstances surrounding their arrests are not included in court documents.
Both men face up to 10 years in prison and fines of up to $250,000, if Blanchard is found guilty.