October 26, 2012

Suspect's image, arrest at odds in prostitution case

A respected Thomaston businessman and community leader fights charges linking him to a Kennebunk operation.

By Eric Russell erussell@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

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Mark Strong Sr.

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Mark Strong Sr. is known as a shrewd businessman and civic leader in his hometown of Thomaston, where he still lives in this 1800s-era sea captain’s home in which he grew up. Townspeople were shocked when Strong was arrested in July on a charge of promoting prostitution.

John Ewing/Staff Photographer

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Strong has been an insurance agent at least since the 1980s, and by most accounts he's a successful agent. In 2006, a local newspaper readers poll named Strong the region's best.

"I guess I wouldn't have insurance with him if I didn't trust him," said Chuck Kruger, a state legislator who has known Strong for more than 30 years.

In addition to his insurance agency, Strong is a licensed private investigator, a fact that was well-known around town, and has operated a small photography and modeling business, a fact that was not as well-known.

Town Clerk Joan Linscott graduated from high school with Strong in the early 1970s but doesn't remember having much of an opinion of him back then. She said she's crossed paths with him often in the years since and recalled that his three years as a town selectman were sometimes controversial, including voting to dismiss a former police chief because of a feud with the town manager at the time.

"He didn't care what the voters had to say," she recalled. "He was going to do things his way."

STRONG'S SIDE BUSINESS 'RAISED AN EYEBROW'

Most in town seemed to know that he was a private investigator, although no one knew how successful he was or whether he had a specialty.

Few seemed to know about Strong's other side business, Strong Photography and Modeling Agency Inc.

That business does not appear to have its own website, but his work is linked on other photography websites. The sample photos depict young women in suggestive poses. Some are partially undressed. The email address associated with the photography business is Strong's email address at his insurance agency. The physical address is 75 Mechanic St. in Rockland, an office building overlooking the water.

Jim Sharp, the office manager there, said he rented space to Strong for the modeling and photography business in 2007 and 2008. "I never noticed anything unusual about that business," Sharp said. "I'm absolutely astounded about what has come out about (Strong). I guess he was good at keeping it under wraps."

O'Brien said she remembers a photo hanging in the bathroom at the Strong Agency. It was taken by Strong and depicted a young woman with her shirt off, her hands covering her breasts. She thought it was a little strange.

Strong declined to comment on the status of his photography and modeling business.

Kruger said that when he saw some of Strong's photos online, it "raised an eyebrow," but he didn't give it much thought.

"I guess on one hand I wasn't surprised when I heard about (the prostitution charge)," Kruger said.

Some of Strong's photos are posted on the website modelography.com. Two of the photos are of Alexis Wright. The copyright date on both is 2007.

'THE REST OF THE STORY ...'

Among the many unanswered questions is how Strong came to know Wright. No one in Thomaston seems to know how the two might have met.

Even Strong's attorney said he doesn't know.

"I think she was interested in private investigation and she contacted him that way," Lilley said.

The affidavit says Strong "did knowingly promote prostitution" from October 2010 through Feb. 14, 2012, though Strong's photos of Wright seem to indicate they knew each other as early as 2007.

Police have said that Strong co-signed the lease for her studio and Lilley also confirmed that Strong lent Wright money so she could start her dance studio in Kennebunk.

O'Brien, Strong's former employee, said that was entirely plausible.

"He was very generous," she said.

Asked about the videos seized that reportedly show Strong and Wright engaging in sexual acts, Lilley said police and prosecutors have not shared that evidence with him.

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Additional Photos

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Peter Lammert, a town selectman who served on the board with Mark Strong Sr. in the late 1980s and ’90s, was surprised to learn of the charges against Strong. “The whole situation is such a wild thing there has to be more to it,” he said.

John Ewing/Staff Photographer

  


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