WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft and 24 other men accused of paying for sex acts at a Jupiter day spa have been formally charged with soliciting prostitutes, Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg said.
None has been charged with human trafficking but “that could change,” said Aronberg, who called human trafficking “evil in our midst.”
According to a Jupiter police report from Jan. 20 at 10:59 a.m., Kraft paid at least $100 in cash to a woman who performed a sex act. The transaction took about 10 minutes. Later that day, Kraft flew to Kansas City where the Patriots played the Chiefs in the AFC Championship game.
Kraft is captured on surveillance camera at the Orchids of Asia Day Spa taking all his clothes off, getting hugged by the woman before the sex act takes place, the report says. He then allegedly gives the woman a $100 bill and one other unidentifiable bill and leaves.
The police report states that Kraft also visited the spa on Jan. 19 and arrived and left the establishment in a chauffeured-driven Bentley.
The charge against Kraft is a first-degree misdemeanor punishable by one year in jail.
Defendants, who like Kraft, live out of state, will be issued a “capias” and will have to either surrender or have an attorney contact law enforcement to satisfy the warrant. Local defendants will have a summons mailed to them.
Aronberg did not speak specifically about Kraft or any of the other 24 men arrested.
Also listed among those arrested is John Havens, the former chief operating officer for Citigroup.
A spokesperson for Kraft categorically denied “that Mr. Kraft engaged in any illegal activity.”
The National Football League on Monday released its second statement regarding Kraft, saying it was “seeking a full understanding of the facts” before considering any disciplinary action.
“Our Personal Conduct Police applies equally to everyone in the NFL,” the statement read. “We will handle this allegation in the same way we would handle any issue under the Policy.
“We are seeking a full understanding of the facts, while ensuring that we do not interfere with an ongoing law-enforcement investigation. We will take appropriate action as warranted based on the facts.”
Last week, the NFL said owners have been “held to a higher standard and will be subject to more significant discipline” when violations of its personal-conduct policy occur.
Jupiter police began investigating the business in the Publix plaza at Indiantown Road and U.S. 1, across the intersection from Harbourside Place and 17 miles from Kraft’s Palm Beach apartment, in October following a tip from the Martin County Sheriff’s Office. The monthslong investigation included surveying who came and went from the spa, coordinating with a Florida Department of Health inspector and obtaining a warrant to put surveillance cameras in the massage rooms.
The multicounty investigation into the ring with ties to New York and China has led to the arrests of four women, including spa owner Hua Zhang and manager Lei Wang. Hundreds of men from Vero Beach south to Jupiter have been named as customers at the illegal businesses, four of which are in Martin County.
Under Florida law, soliciting a prostitute is considered a second-degree misdemeanor for a first offense, carrying a jail term of up 60 days. Sentencing often takes the form of education more than punishment, with the johns required to take an AIDS awareness class, some of which are taught by women, and a few of them even led by the undercover police officers who might have arrested the men.
Authorities have said the cases rises to the level of human trafficking. They allege the leaders of the ring led women to come to the United States from China on the guise of having legitimate jobs working in the spas, only to find themselves forced to perform sex acts on clients. They also say the women were largely confined to the spas, eating and sleeping there and often having to surrender their passports.