In a staggering announcement, Jupiter Police today said billionaire and New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft is being charged with soliciting prostitution in Palm Beach County. Kraft is one of 25 people arrested in a huge sex-trafficking sting. The TCPalm yesterday reported that, after a six-month sting, law enforcement shut down ten massage parlors from Orlando to Palm Beach County. Cops claimed young women were being “lured” into massage parlors and, in some cases, trapped there.
As part of that effort, Jupiter Police spokesperson O’Neil Anderson told New Times today that Kraft was charged after visiting Orchids of Asia Day Spa in the North Palm Beach County town.
BREAKING: Jupiter Police says New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft is being charged with soliciting prostitution.
— Ali Schmitz (@SchmitzMedia) February 22, 2019
The announcement that police had issued an arrest warrant for Kraft came mere hours after Jupiter PD held a very weird news conference in which numerous local reporters asked if any “prominent individuals” or “NFL players” were involved in the sting. Deadspin yesterday noted those were some highly specific questions for reporters to just, you know, randomly ask the cops.
Do you know why the NFL and pro sports and owners were coming up at this press conference about a sex trafficking sting in Florida? Let me know!
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— Diana Moskovitz (@DianaMoskovitz) February 22, 2019
That’s because word had apparently leaked last night that Kraft was among the johns busted by investigators. Earlier this week, the TCPalm published a story about Orchids of Asia in which a neighbor said the operation was “like a movie.”
Kraft’s spokespeople told the Associated Press they “categorically deny that Mr. Kraft engaged in any illegal activity. Because it is a judicial matter, we will not be commenting further.”
At the news conference, police stressed that the focus should be on the human-trafficking victims who were coerced to work at the massage parlors. Some held massage therapy licenses and were recruited to travel from China to the United States, only to learn upon arrival that they would have to perform sex acts.
“They’re coming over here and they are, truly some of them are, trying to make a better life for themselves,” Vero Beach Police Chief David Currey said. (Despite the fact that Currey acknowledges the women are victims, his department is still callously charging some of them with crimes.)
In some cases, the women lived at the massage parlors and were not allowed to leave. But even if they could, officials noted, they were trapped by a fear of immigration and law-enforcement authorities.
Investigators made a point of noting the men who frequented the massage parlors helped perpetuate the trafficking.
“These johns, either knowingly or not knowingly, were certainly supplying the funds to perpetuate human trafficking and human sex trafficking,” Indian River County Sheriff Deryl Loar says. “That’s the message.”
This is a breaking story. This post will be updated.