New England Patriots Owner Kraft Charged with Soliciting Another to Commit Prostitution

On Monday Feb. 25, Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg announced at a press conference that the 25 men allegedly involved in the Jupiter, Florida prostitution scandal, including New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, have been officially charged with solicitation of another to commit prostitution. This comes after initial reports of charges were announced on Friday, Feb. 22 by Jupiter Police Chief Daniel Kerr in which a list of the 25 suspected individuals was given out.

Aronberg’s press conference covered what exactly the official charges entail, but also emphasized the importance of the victims in this scandal instead of focusing on the celebrity aspect of Kraft.

"These cases aren't about any one defendant or group of defendants, the larger picture which we all must confront is the cold reality that many prostitutes in cases like this are themselves, victims," said Aronberg at the press conference. "It is evil in our midst, it is also fueled by the demand side."

Photo Credit: Zab Bennet for the Boston Globe

Aronberg said that 25 men were officially charged with a first-degree misdemeanor. This misdemeanor is punishable up to one year in jail, a mandatory fine of $5,000, 100 hours of mandatory community service, and a mandatory class on the dangers of prostitution and human trafficking.

In Florida, the first offense for prostitution would be typically charged as a second-degree misdemeanor with a maximum punishment of 60 days in jail and a fine up to $5000.

This case is just one of a larger scale sex trafficking crackdown in Florida, according to the police. There are more than 100 people being linked to Florida spas and massage parlors suspected of being used for prostitution.

This particular case, involving the 25 men, occurred at Orchids of Asia Day Spa & Massage in Jupiter Florida. After receiving a tip from health inspectors, the Jupiter Police Department have been surveilling the spa for around six months. Over a period of five days in January they were able to capture surveillance video from inside the spa.

For all 25 men charged, police have surveillance footage of them allegedly receiving “paid acts” from the workers of the spa. Police released an affidavit detailing all 26 incidents.

Kraft is being charged with two counts of first-degree misdemeanors. He visited the spa twice, each day around 11:00 am – once on Jan. 19 and Jan. 20, as detailed in the probable cause affidavit. The second day was the same day as the AFC Championship Game in which the New England Patriots beat the Kansas City Chiefs.

A spokesperson for Kraft denied his involvement in the scandal, saying, “we categorically deny that Mr. Kraft engaged in any illegal activity.”

Two of the women from the spa have been charged with maintaining a place of prostitution among other charges. The police have found a consistency between the women working there living there 24/7 as well. Aronberg said they are working with advocacy groups and interpreters to try to help the women.

"You can tell a lot about our community by the way it treats our most vulnerable individuals," said Aronberg in the press conference. "And that includes victims of human trafficking, which is modern-day slavery."

Aronberg said they are still looking into the possibility of human trafficking and further charges may come as a result of further investigation.

Kraft's name is only one out of the hundreds being investigated by Florida police and one out of many potentially contributing to the problem of human trafficking. According to statistics from National Human Trafficking Hotlines, sex trafficking accounted for 6,081 of the 8,500 reported cases of human trafficking.

The top businesses to disguise the sex trafficking industry are spas or massage parlors. In Massachusetts, there is a loophole that makes this particularly easy to do. According to WGBH's Philip Martin, who often reports on human trafficking, there is a "bodyworks loophole" which enables illicit massage parlors to use the term "bodyworks” to more easily evade police detection since it doesn’t require licensing.

 

While there has been a great push to close this loophole that makes the sex trafficking industry difficult to detect in Massachusetts, it has yet to happen.

 

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