October 26, 2012

Kennebunk police charge 18 more alleged 'johns' in prostitution case

Unlike the first list of 21 court summonses, this list has no immediately recognizable names.

By Edward D. Murphy emurphy@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

Kennebunk police released a list Friday of 18 more people who are charged with patronizing Alexis Wright, the Zumba instructor who allegedly ran a prostitution operation in town.

click image to enlarge

In this Oct. 9, 2012 file photo, Alexis Wright, 29, turns towards her attorney Sarah Churchill, left, during her arraignment in Portland, Maine on 109 counts of prostitution, violation of privacy, tax evasion and other charges for allegedly providing sex for money at her Kennebunk fitness studio and office. (AP Photo/Joel Page, File)

click image to enlarge

This photo shows Pura Vida Studio in Kennebunk on Wednesday, July 11, 2012, where dance studio instructor Alexis Wright allegedly ran a prostitution operation.

Shawn Patrick Ouellette / Staff Photographer

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Unlike the first list of court summonses, issued Oct. 16, the list released Friday contained no immediately recognizable names.

The initial list of 21 names included James Soule, a former mayor of South Portland, and Donald Hill, a former hockey coach at Kennebunk High School.

Wright, 29, of Wells, has pleaded not guilty to 106 counts, including three felonies related to taxes and receiving public assistance when ineligible.

Her alleged business partner, Mark Strong Sr., 57, of Thomaston, has pleaded not guilty to 59 misdemeanor charges.

The case has brought unwanted attention to Kennebunk, where Wright operated a Zumba fitness studio that, according to police, doubled as a place of prostitution.

Newspapers from around the world have carried the story, highlighting the juxtaposition of prostitution with the small, upscale New England town noted largely for being the neighboring town of Kennebunkport, where former President George H.W. Bush has a summer home.

The release of the first list of alleged "johns" was delayed when an attorney for two men asked a judge to block the release.

He argued that the men were not only suspects, but potentially victims of Wright, who reportedly videotaped her sexual encounters with the men.

Among the charges she faces is invasion of privacy.

The judge initially decided to allow police to release the names of the 21 men who were charged but ordered additional identifying information, such as birth dates and addresses, withheld.

That caused confusion, with some men whose names are the same as the defendants' saying the public was confusing them with those who had been charged.

The judge then reversed himself and ordered the ages and addresses of the 21 men released as well.

Authorities and lawyers connected with the case say Wright kept meticulous records including a list of alleged clients with more than 150 names.

Police said they are releasing the names as they investigate the cases to make sure they have enough evidence to charge the men.

They also said they will follow the town's regular practice of releasing names every two weeks on the police blotter.

It could be several months before all of the names of alleged clients are released.

Two who are on the list released Friday are due to appear in Biddeford District Court on Dec. 5, as are all of the men named on the first list.

Most of the rest will appear Dec. 19, and two are scheduled to appear Jan. 23.

Staff Writer Edward D. Murphy can be contacted at 791-6465 or at:

emurphy@pressherald.com

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