October 26, 2012

Police set to charge alleged clients in Kennebunk prostitution case

Summonses are being prepared for more than 150 people, including prominent figures.

By Ann S. Kim akim@mainetoday.com
Staff Writer

KENNEBUNK — Police are preparing to charge suspected clients of an alleged prostitution operation, now that the two key figures in the case have been indicted.

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In this April 2011 file photo, Alexis Wright

Jill Brady / Staff Photographer

Mark Strong

Staff File Photo

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Investigators are drafting court summonses and making arrangements to serve them, Kennebunk police Lt. Anthony Bean Burpee said Thursday.

He could not say how many will be issued, but prosecutors have indicated that they expect many of the people on a list of clients will be charged. More than 150 people reportedly are on the list, including prominent figures.

Indictments were made public Wednesday against Alexis Wright, 29, a Zumba instructor from Wells, and Mark Strong Sr., 57, an insurance agent and private investigator from Thomaston.

A York County grand jury indicted Wright on 106 counts, including promotion of prostitution, engaging in prostitution, invasion of privacy, conspiracy, tax offenses and receiving welfare benefits when ineligible. Three of the counts -- income tax evasion and two counts of theft by deception -- are felonies and the rest are misdemeanors.

Strong was indicted on 59 misdemeanor counts, including promotion of prostitution, violation of privacy and conspiracy. Strong, who was arrested in July on a single count of promotion of prostitution, was the only person charged in the case until the grand jury action this week.

Some of the suspected clients and their attorneys have contacted police or the York County District Attorney's Office. Police are setting up appointments to serve summonses to those people, Bean Burpee said. Police will have to find others, who have not been in contact with authorities.

Police will issue the summonses in batches, Bean Burpee said, and the first group will likely have a court date in about six to eight weeks.

"No one's been served at this point," he said.

Engaging a prostitute is a misdemeanor. First-time offenders face fines but no jail time.

Deputy District Attorney Justina McGettigan would not discuss the case Thursday, citing the instructions of Superior Court Justice Joyce Wheeler not to disseminate information about evidence.

Authorities have video footage of Wright having sex with men who were unaware that they were being filmed, a ledger key with prices for various sex acts and "meticulous" client records, according to a police affidavit made public this summer.

The items were found on Feb. 14 during a search of Wright's Pura Vida studio in Kennebunk, a nearby office space and her home in Wells.

The indictments against Wright and Strong don't include the names of alleged victims of invasion of privacy or those who are suspected of paying for sex.

The fact that criminal suspects may have been the victims of invasion of privacy has no bearing on the charges against Wright and Strong, said Chris Northrop, a University of Maine School of Law professor who is part of the Cumberland Legal Aid Clinic faculty. "As far as criminal liability, it shouldn't affect it at all."

The statute doesn't address the possibility that a victim of one crime could be a perpetrator of another, so that scenario doesn't come into the legal analysis, Northrop said.

A common example of an offender being a victim, he said, is a drug dealer whose home is broken into and robbed.

While authorities say they have video of Wright performing sexual acts, it isn't clear how incriminating it would be.

The rules of evidence for photographic material require someone to attest to its authenticity as an accurate representation of what happened, Northrop said. That means video footage can be entered into evidence at trial only if someone can explain facts such as where the camera was, and when it was running.

"In order to get that," he said, "you need to have someone who was in the room."

Staff Writer Ann S. Kim can be contacted at 791-6383 or at: akim@pressherald.com

Twitter: AnnKimPPH

 

Staff Writer David Hench also contributed to this story.

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