KENNEBUNK — A Thomaston insurance agent’s arrest for allegedly promoting prostitution this week has connections to a local Zumba fitness studio, according to Kennebunk police.

Mark Strong Sr., 56, of 53 Knox St. in Thomaston, owner of The Strong Agency, was arrested Tuesday and charged with promotion of prostitution, a Class D misdemeanor. The arrest followed a five-month investigation begun by Kennebunk police, which later included the north and south divisions of the Maine State Police Major Crimes Unit, according to Lt. Anthony Bean Burpee of the Kennebunk Police Department.

Last September, Kennebunk police received anonymous phone calls from concerned citizens alerting them about suspicious activity occurring at Pura Vida Studio, located at 8 York St., according to a police affidavit filed in Biddeford District Court Monday.

Anonymous callers said they heard rumors of prostitution and criminal activities involving a female associate at Pura Vida Studio. The suspect’s name given by callers was Alexis Wright, the studio’s owner and Zumba instructor, according to Officer Audra Presby, who wrote the affidavit.

Burpee noted Wednesday, in a statement, that “at this time, Strong is the only person facing criminal charges.”

The affidavit said that on several occasions, Kennebunk Police Lt. Daniel Jones spoke with employees at Toppings Pizza, located in the same plaza as the Zumba studio, who said they witnessed vehicles driving behind the back of the studio’s building at all hours of the day and night. Men “dressed in sport jackets and business dress attire” would enter and leave the studio after approximately 30 minutes to one hour, the employees told police.

In December, a Kennebunk resident who is an agent with the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency called Wright, who went by the name “Lydia,” according to the affidavit. The agent recorded the phone conversation in which Wright allegedly agreed to engage in unspecified sexual conduct with the agent for money, according to the affidavit.

Kennebunk police and MDEA agents searched Pura Vida Studio, as well as Wright’s residence at 158 Loop Road in Wells and an office she rented at 1 High St. in Kennebunk, in February. Presby said that during the searches, evidence related to the crimes of engaging, promoting and soliciting prostitution were recovered. Wright has not been charged with a crime.

Electronic ledgers detailing sexual acts and their monetary values, hours of video recordings and precise records of Wright’s alleged clients were obtained among the evidence, Presby said. Presby said Wright’s alleged clients didn’t know they were being recorded while engaging in the sexual acts. The electronic ledger showed the fees and acts recorded by Wright would have totaled approximately $150,000, according to Presby.

The investigation, said Presby, showed Strong had a “significant business and personal connection to the illegal acts.” Evidence came from bank and telephone records, postal receipts and insurance documents.

Presby said she observed in the obtained videos that Wright would speak to Strong via Skype, an online video service, through which she would send him her recordings.

Strong, who is also a private investigator, used the InforME system, a subsidiary of the Bureau of Motor Vehicles, to look for potential clients for Wright, according to Presby.

Strong was transported to Knox County Jail following his arrest and made bail of $5,000. He is scheduled to appear at Biddeford District Court on Sept. 7 at 1 p.m.

He was released on the condition that he not have any direct or indirect contact with Wright.

Wright could not be reached for comment by the time of publication.

“The investigation is ongoing and further charges are expected to be filed,” said Burpee on Wednesday.

— Staff Writer Matt Kiernan can be contacted at 282-1535, Ext. 326 or [email protected]

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