Penalty argued in Maine Zumba prostitution scandal
PORTLAND, Maine (AP) – An insurance agent accused of running a prostitution operation in a small coastal town in Maine received 20 percent of the income under an arrangement with the Zumba fitness instructor who engaged in sex acts for money, prosecutors said in a sentencing memorandum filed Wednesday.
And email traffic between the two indicated paid sex acts continued even after police raided the instructor’s dance studio, office and home in Kennebunk, the memo said.
The 80-20 split in income revealed for the first time a financial arrangement between Mark Strong and Alexis Wright. Wright is accused of making more than $150,000 from prostitution over an 18-month period. She is to stand trial in May.
Strong was convicted earlier this month of 12 counts of promotion of prostitution and a separate conspiracy count, and is to be sentenced Thursday. Prosecutors are seeking a 364-day jail term for Strong while the defense is asking for no more than 14 days in jail.
Prosecutors said Strong cultivated the relationship with Wright and controlled the operation, receiving Google calendar alerts for her appointments, recording encounters via video, reviewing Wright’s ledgers, suggesting ways to maximize profits, and running clients’ license plate numbers through the Department of Motor Vehicles database.
He watched sexual encounters live via Skype, not because he was a voyeur but because he was a businessman who was acting as Wright’s protector, prosecutors said.
“Based on his sophisticated crime, his calculation in committing these crimes, his utter lack of remorse, the court should impose a sentence that gives fair warning that this type of criminal enterprise is not tolerated in Maine,” the prosecutors wrote.
Strong, 57, of Thomaston, has acknowledged helping the 30-year-old Wright open her Kennebunk dance studio and having an affair with her. But he says he loaned her money that was repaid with interest, and that he didn’t profit from prostitution.
Strong’s lawyers previously asked the judge to invalidate 12 of the 13 counts against their client, arguing that prosecutors never spelled out specifically how Strong’s actions promoted prostitution and that the charges overlap.
If the judge dismisses the counts, Strong should not be sentenced to jail at all, his lawyers argue. If all 13 counts stand, he should be sentenced only to 14 days in jail, they say.
Strong’s attorneys described him as community leader, husband and father who had no previous criminal record and poses no threat to society.
“Mark Strong is loved by his family and friends, who describe him as unfailingly generous, thoughtful, and extremely remorseful for how his poor personal decisions – and the resultant criminal charges and publicity – have negatively and perhaps irreparably impacted those closest to him,” attorney Dan Lilley wrote.
The case has drawn wide attention because of the scale of the operation and the number of alleged clients – more than 150 of them. People who’ve seen the list say some of Wright’s clients were prominent.
Wright, who now lives in Wells, faces 106 counts, including prostitution, privacy violations, tax offenses and welfare fraud.
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