Kennebunk, ME

Tactics Used

Auto Seizure
Buyer Arrests
Community Service
Employment Loss
Identity Disclosure
IT Based Tactics
John School
License Suspension
Neighborhood Action
Public Education
Reverse Stings
SOAP Orders
Web Stings

Kennebunk, a town of approximately 11,600 residents, is located near the Atlantic coast in southeastern Maine, in York County. The city is not known for substantial street prostitution, but there have been numerous complaints and reports of indoor prostitution for decades. One of those cases involved an effort to address the buyers of prostitution, but not through traditional reverse stings. Instead, police leveraged a list of sex buyers from a prostitution business operating out of three studio storefronts in the town. In September 2012, a takedown of an exercise studio occurred after an investigation of several months into prostitution occurring at the business. The operation uncovered a list of sex buyers at the establishment with over 100 individuals identified. While it is not unusual to discover buyer lists in raided brothels, the lists often are not used by law enforcement since they alone do not constitute sufficient evidence that sex exchanged directly for money occurred. For example, in an investigation of a very high-volume brothel in the Spokane, WA area, a “client list” containing 1,200 names was discovered, but police did not take any action against the men listed. In the Kennebunk “Zumba Studio” case, the list was reportedly supplemented by videotapes and still shots that recorded many of the sexual encounters. Police prepared to charge the men on the list with soliciting prostitution and began to issue summons in early October 2012. On October 15, 2012, the district court released to the public a list of 21 names of men who were all summoned to appear in court on December 5, 2012. The list was the first part of a larger list that contained between 100 and 150 names, according to news reports. The remaining names were released in batches over subsequent months. In late October 2013, it was reported that the cases were drawing to a close. Prosecutors anticipated no further charges because judges ruled that the woman at the heart of the scandal could not be forced to testify. While as many as 100 to 150 names were on a ledger and sex buyers were videotaped, charges were brought against just 68 people charged with soliciting prostitution. Through mid-April 2013, 60 of the men’s names had been released; the flow of court appearances and release of names delayed while the courts prosecuted the two main defendants in operating the dance studio-based prostitution operation. There were 61 convictions and one acquittal. Charges were dropped in one case. The sex buyers who were charged paid a fine of about $300. The woman who owned the studio was charged with over 100 counts of prostitution. She pled guilty to 20 counts and served six months in jail, and was released by the end of 2013.

Other cases have involved the use of “client lists” to arrest sex buyers. For example, in Vero Beach, Florida, a brothel was investigated in 2008, and 35 sex buyers were arrested after being identified through evidence acquired during surveillance, in addition to brothel records and other sources of intelligence. In 2004, a list of men was discovered during a prostitution investigation of a massage parlor in Odessa, Texas. The buyer list was publicly disclosed and 68 men were arrested. A case in Lawrence, Massachusetts followed a similar path. In June 2013, a brothel in that city was investigated and the pimp was arrested. The case involved the discovery of a buyer list reported to contain between 1,000 and 2,000 names. As of June 2013, police were still trying to match names on the list with known persons, and then work with the courts to determine what action – if any – would be taken to pursue the sex buyers. In some communities, buyer lists from illegal brothels are obtained (e.g., Petaluma, CA), but police made no attempt to take action against the men on the lists.

Key Partners

  • Kennebunk Police Department
  • Cumberland County Superior Court

Key Sources

Use of “Client List” to Arrest Sex Buyers; Identity Disclosure:

Background on Prostitution and Sex Trafficking in the Area:

State Maine
Type City
Population 11622
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