Hey, guess what? It turns out there are law enforcement officials in Boston who Believe that there are actually crimes more heinous than prostitution! Today, we salute the local United States Attorney’s Office for deciding that extortion is worse than the world’s oldest profession.
He (his name has been withheld, but we’ll call him “John”) is a prominent businessman from the Boston area, married and in his 60s, who later told authorities that he had merely wanted a “last hurrah” – sex with a young woman.
And he got it. She ( who has been named) was 27-year-old Michelle R (hereinafter, the “Defendant”). The Defendant is alleged to be a prostitute from Canton who was happy to oblige John’s “hurrah”. Through an escort service, John and the Defendant made a deal. Well, kind of several deals. They all involved sex for money as one encounter led to another, and then another, and so on.
The “hurrah” allegedly lasted for 18 months.
But then, it ended. According to the FBI, however, the Defendant figured that if she could not do it to him one way, she would do it to him another way. This past July, shortly after the liaisons ended, she allegedly called John and explained that someone had offered her $60,000 to publicly reveal their relationship. So, if John wanted her to keep her mouth shut, he would have to pay him more than that.
John quickly handed her $80,000 in cash outside a Newton hotel, and, when she said that was not enough, another $200,000 outside a Costco in Dedham, an FBI agent said in an affidavit. But when she demanded $300,000 more – “that money I ask for is nothing to u,” she allegedly said in a text message – John had had enough. He reportedly contacted former US attorney Donald K. Stern.
The wheels were set in motion on August 7, two days after the demand for $300,000, when Stern arranged for an FBI agent and a prosecutor who works for US Attorney Michael J. Sullivan, the top federal law enforcement official in the state, to meet with John Although federal authorities rarely pursue cases of blackmail involving prostitutes and customers, the FBI arranged to have John tape-record a series of phone calls to the prostitute, including one from Providence, according to the affidavit. That call crossed state lines, ensuring that the prostitute’s alleged extortion demand was a federal crime, a tactic that several former federal prosecutors said is a common practice.
Federal agents arrested the Defendant on August 13 in a Costco parking lot after John gave her a bag she thought contained $300,000.
This week the last chapter of the Hurrah will probably be written when the Defendant, now 29, pleads guilty in court to wire fraud and threats in interstate communications and accepts what is by all accounts a remarkably lenient, if unusual, sentence.
Under a tentative deal between federal prosecutors and the Defendant’s lawyer that must be approved by a judge, she would be sentenced Friday to six months in jail, which is the time she has already served while the case has been pending since her arrest.
The federal sentencing guidelines is apparently 27 to 33 months imprisonment.
The Defendant will also have to pay back the $280,000 – which might be a challenge given that she was declared indigent by the court – and serve six months in home confinement. She will also spend three years on supervised release, during which time she must obey an extraordinary condition: She is forbidden from disclosing John’s name.
More on that issue tomorrow.
It would appear that the federal prosecutors prosecuted only the extortion and not the underlying prostitution. That would have, after all, been a bit embarrassing given that John was the other participant in that repeated crime.
After all, as examined previously in this daily blog, Massachusetts state law, as well as police procedures, has recently changed to include prosecution of the customer as well as the vender of sex. On the other hand, prostitution, like extortion, is not usually prosecuted in federal court.
Actually, what happened in this case , at least in terms of who did and did not get prosecuted, is not all that unusual. Prosecutors often use someone who has allegedly engaged in crime to “switch sides” and testify for the government. This is especially true in federal cases. The theory behind it is that, often, only other criminals are witnesses to important evidence in crimes which outweigh in importance the bad acts of the witness.
Often, this is done in much more serious crimes. However, apparently, the United States Attorney has determined that Massachusetts prostitution is not as serious a crime as Massachusetts extortion, a felony, which is, after all, another kind of robbery.
As for exactly how good a deal John got…..we will discuss that tomorrow in Part Two.
The full article of this story can be found at: http://www.boston.com/yourtown/newton/articles/2009/02/17/paid_sex_then_threats_bring_id_debate/