AUGUSTA — A Litchfield woman faces a felony charge of aggravated sex trafficking for allegedly promoting prostitution of a 17-year-old girl following April police raids at her residences in Litchfield and Augusta.
Attorneys for Gretchen L. Patrick, 51, entered a plea of not guilty on her behalf in Augusta District Court Wednesday to a misdemeanor charge alleging she promoted prostitution between July 31, 2012, and April 10, 2014, in Augusta.
The recently added felony charge of aggravated sex trafficking, which alleges Patrick promoted prostitution of the girl between July 31, 2012 and April 10, in Litchfield, is to be handled later in Kennebec County Superior Court. A conviction on that charge carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison.
Patrick is represented by attorneys Brad Grant and Jed Davis.
“Our defense team is currently in the process of getting the discovery from the district attorney,” Grant said via email Wednesday afternoon. “Once I receive this information I will be in a better position to evaluate the strength and weaknesses of the state’s case. Until then it is simply premature to make any other comment.”
Patrick has not spoken publicly about the charges, and a phone number for her was answered Wednesday with a message that her mailbox was full.
District Attorney Maeghan Maloney said Tuesday the charge of aggravated sex trafficking is based on the age of the girl. Maine law says a sex trafficking charge can be elevated if certain factors are involved, such as coercing someone into prostitution or forcing someone to engage in prostitution to pay off a debt.
In searching Patrick’s Litchfield residence April 10, state police reported seizing five used condoms from the kitchen trash, sex and drug paraphernalia from a bedroom and bathroom, cellphones of three women; and a list of work hours, names and numbers.
Patrick’s residence on Purinton Street, Augusta, was searched as well the same day, and police reported finding four phones, condoms and $418 in cash.
Information contained in search warrant documents in Augusta District Court provide details about a two-year police and FBI probe into an alleged prostitution ring known as Sarah’s Place operating from an apartment Patrick rented on Northern Avenue in Augusta. Police said Patrick had recently relocated to Lewiston Road, Litchfield.
Tips alleging a prostitution ring were called in through the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children and elsewhere via a Maine State Police tip line. One complainant told police, “It is very uncomfortable to have to bypass johns every day. You cannot go outside without it happening.”
Some complainants were women who told officers they formerly worked for Patrick. One said she later began her own prostitution business and competed with Patrick for customers.
Betty Adams can be reached at 621-5631, or at