ALFRED — In a letter sent to York County Superior Court on Sept. 20, Maine Assistant Attorney General Gregg Bernstein said that many people on a list of clients in an alleged prostitution ring in Kennebunk will likely face related charges.

Mark Strong, 56, of Thomaston, was arrested in mid-July and charged with promotion of prostitution, and to date, he is the only one charged with a crime in connection with the alleged prostitution business.

Alexis Wright of Wells, owner of a Zumba fitness studio in Kennebunk, is alleged by prosecutors to have operated the prostitution ring out of her studio, located at 8 York St. in Kennebunk, but to date has not been charged with a crime.

The police affidavit filed this summer stated that in December, an agent with the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency called Wright, who went by the name “Lydia,” and recorded their conversation, in which Wright allegedly agreed to engage in unspecified sexual conduct with the agent for money.

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. Officer Audra Presby wrote the affidavit, which states that during the searches, evidence related to the crimes of engaging, promoting and soliciting prostitution were recovered.

Promotion of prostitution is a Class D misdemeanor. 

Bernstein, in his Sept. 20 letter, said the investigation uncovered a “so-called ”˜client list’ with names and contact and other personal information regarding individuals on the list. The state will likely charge many of these persons with prostitution-related offenses, but of some of these persons may not be charged. ”¦ The State seeks to be respectful of the constitutional rights of persons before they are charged, as well as those who will not be charged.”

The letter goes on to state that the attorney general’s office has provided the client list in document form, as well as other pertinent documents, to defense attorney Dan Lilley of Portland, who is defending Strong.

Earlier this month, Lilley sought to have the case against his client dismissed on the grounds that the prosecution had missed its deadline for providing discovery evidence; York County Assistant District Attorney Justina McGettigan said at a court appearance on Sept. 14 that the delay was due to the sheer volume of evidence, which she said included “terabytes of data” that was seized from the fitness studio, including audio and video files that allegedly depict Wright engaging in sexual acts with clients.

“We want to make sure that, when we bring the prosecution forward, that we have the evidence to back it up,” said McGettigan at that appearance.

Superior Court Justice Joyce Wheeler, who normally sits in Cumberland County, was originally slated to hear the case, but at the Sept. 14 hearing, Lilley requested that she recuse herself, on the grounds that the husband of Kate Lawrence, an assistant attorney general involved in prosecuting the case, works as a court clerk for Wheeler.

Wheeler initially declined to recuse herself, but has since changed her mind, declining to give a reason. Superior Court Justice Nancy Mills has been assigned to the case.

Also included in Bernstein’s letter was a motion for a protective order ”“ colloquially known as a gag order ”“ which would effectively bar the parties involved in the case from disseminating or discussing any information related to the charges. A few media outlets in Maine have said they plan to fight the motion, citing First Amendment issues.

— The Associated Press contributed to this report. Staff Writer Jeff Lagasse can be contacted at 282-1535, Ext. 319 or [email protected].



        Comments are not available on this story.

        filed under: