ALFRED — Alexis Wright, the former Zumba instructor who ran a prostitution business from her studio in Kennebunk, claims she was conned by her business partner into believing she was a secret operative working for the state “to investigate all manner of sexual deviants.”
“At first blush, this seems too farfetched for anyone to believe. Nevertheless, text messages between Ms. Wright and Mark Strong Sr. bear it out,” Wright’s attorney, Sarah Churchill, says in an eight-page sentencing memorandum filed Thursday in York County Superior Court.
Wright, 30, is due to be sentenced Friday as the central figure in a case that drew international attention. She pleaded guilty to 20 misdemeanors on March 29 in an agreement with prosecutors, avoiding a trial that Churchill estimated would have lasted six weeks and been a media “spectacle.”
The agreement calls for Wright to serve 10 months in jail and pay more than $58,000 in fines and restitution, including more than $40,000 for theft of welfare benefits and more than $16,000 in taxes for unreported income.
In return, prosecutors dropped 86 of the 106 counts against Wright and reduced the three most serious charges — for tax and state welfare violations — from felonies to misdemeanors.
The case first made headlines when police raided Wright’s Zumba studio and business office in Kennebunk and her home in Wells on Valentine’s Day 2012.
She was accused of conspiring with Strong, 57, of Thomaston, to run a one-woman prostitution business from the Zumba studio, keeping extensive records and video recordings of her sex acts with customers.
Police and prosecutors have said Wright had the names of more than 140 clients in her ledger and took in at least $150,000 from the business from July 2010 to February 2012.
So far, 68 people have been charged with engaging Wright for prostitution. Many of them have pleaded guilty. Kennebunk police have said they are investigating another 40 suspects before deciding whether to charge them this summer.
Strong was convicted in March for 13 misdemeanors — 12 counts of promotion of prostitution and one count of conspiracy with Wright, in a trial in York County Superior Court.
Justice Nancy Mills sentenced Strong to serve 20 days in jail and pay a $3,000 fine. Strong was released after serving 15 days, getting credit for good behavior.
The evidence presented at Strong’s trial would have been particularly damning for Wright. One video played for the jury shows her having sex with a man and then collecting a stack of cash from him.
Mills will preside over Wright’s sentencing and decide whether to accept the terms recommended by prosecutors and Wright’s attorney.
Churchill said in her sentencing argument that many factors from Wright’s personal life went into her decision to plead guilty to reduced charges.
“Most of the details are very personal and very painful,” Churchill wrote, adding that she would give more details at Friday’s hearing.
Wright was sexually abused by her father, Randy Wright, for years, Churchill wrote. Her father is a registered sex offender, convicted in federal court of possession of child pornography, though not in connection with abuse of his daughter.
Strong, a successful businessman who is a licensed private investigator, played a fatherly role for Wright, saying in text messages that she was like the daughter he never had, Churchill says in her memorandum.
“She meets an older man and over a period of years is taken in by him first as a model, then as part of his private investigation firm and is told a story, which she all too readily believes, about how she is an operative working for the state to investigate all manner of sexual deviants,” Churchill wrote, arguing that Strong had psychological control of Wright.
In addition to the jail time, fines and restitution, the agreement calls for Wright to be given a one-year suspended jail term to be served after her release. She will be on administrative supervision as she begins restitution on a payment plan.
The lead prosecutor in the case, Deputy District Attorney Justina McGettigan, said in her nine-page sentencing argument that the sentence sought for Wright is greater than Strong’s sentence because Wright was charged with financial crimes while Strong was not.
Wright has asked that she be allowed to serve her jail sentence in Cumberland County rather than York County because the jail in Portland has a visitation policy that would allow her closer contact with her son.
Scott Dolan can be contacted at 791-6304 or at: