York County, 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

York County is the southwestern-most county in Maine, along the state of New Hampshire’s eastern border. Its population is roughly 215,000.  Among the noteworthy communities in the county are Biddeford, Kennebunk, and Old Orchard Beach. Prostitution and sex trafficking have a well-documented presence throughout the county.  For example, in September, 2004, the body of a woman known to have been prostituted was found stuffed in a garbage can in woods near York, Maine. In March, 2016, a Maine man was sentenced to 51 months in prison and five years of supervised release following a guilty plea for “transporting an individual in interstate commerce with the intent that she engage in prostitution,” according to a press release from the federal U.S. Attorney’s Office in Portland. One of the victims told investigators that she started dating a man in southeast Maine in August 2014  who “verbally and psychologically harassed her until she began to work for him as a prostitute.” Court records revealed that in 2015, the offender drove a woman from southern Maine to Dover, New Hampshire, where the woman performed sexual services for clients for money. In 2018, an Old Orchard Beach massage parlor was shut down after suspected “criminal activity” happening inside the premises. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security offered language translation services for female Asian employees who worked there. Old Orchard Beach Police Captain said that the business first entered his view back in 2018 due to code violations. More recently, police had received tips from people living nearby about possible illegal activities happening inside the massage parlor. The department began conducting surveillance on the business and then led to a search warrant being executed. They found numerous building code and fire violations in addition to the original scope of the search warrant, which prompted them to shut down the business. In addition, multiple persons have been served by local programs providing support for sex trafficking victims.

Consumer level demand provides the revenue stream for all prostitution and sex trafficking, and has therefore been targeted by local law enforcement agencies as a strategy for prevention and response. Consumer-level demand reduction tactics have been used in several areas of York County.  For example, in December, 2012, the Old Orchard Beach Police Department arrested a man and charged him with “engaging a prostitute” after he phoned police to complain that the woman stopped 10 minutes short of the time they had agreed upon for the transaction. After the call, investigators began working on the case and were able to located the woman via backpage.com, and arrested her for prostitution. The man was also investigated for other possible incidents of engaging prostitutes. His identity was included in news reports. The man was named on the websites National Blacklist and Bad Boy Client List as someone who has prompted complaints from those providing prostitution.  Among the complaints against the man were lack of payment.  The sites serve as databases for “providers” to share information about sex buyers. The investigation also led to the arrests of two alleged prostituted women.

In September 2012, a takedown of an exercise studio occurred after an investigation of several months into prostitution occurring at the business in Kennebunk. 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.

Key Partners

  • Old Orchard Beach Police Department
  • Kennebunk Police Department

Key Sources

Arrest of Sex Buyer, Identity Disclosure:

Background on Prostitution, Sex Trafficking in the Area:

State Maine
Type City
Population 214591
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