Sex for sale: New details expected on high-end escort bust

1:22 PM, Feb 7, 2008   |    comments
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9Wants to Know first reported Wednesday night that Denver Police and the IRS shut down what has been called the largest and most exclusive escort service in Denver when they served a search warrant and seized the agency's business records last month.

Keep checking throughout the day for updates and watch for more details on 9NEWS at 4, 5, 6 and 10 p.m.

The Jan. 25 raid has raised questions about the elite list of clients whose names and phone numbers were included in the records seized by police and federal officials.

Denver Players, which is also called Denver Sugar, catered to high-end clients across the state, according to employees of the agency who talked with 9Wants to Know. The club is located near 17th Avenue and Fillmore Street.

Escorts told 9NEWS their clients were lawyers, doctors, professional athletes, politicians and judges.

Sources say more than two dozen women worked for the escort agency, but so far none of the escorts have been charged.

One former employee of Denver Players told 9NEWS the client list was in the hundreds.

Escorts charged hundreds of dollars

The escort said she charged $250 for 30 minutes and $300 for an hour. In-call services, where the customers travel to the escort, cost $300 an hour, while out-call, where the escort would meet the customer in a hotel room, cost $350 an hour.

The escorts gave a cut of what they earned - typically 25 to 30 percent, sources said - to business owner Brenda Stewart of Denver, known to her employees as "Carter."

Stewart would pay the women for their cut through her "media consulting" business called Phoenix Media LLC, escorts said.

Both the Denver Police Department and the IRS declined to talk about the case with 9NEWS.

"No one in the IRS can discuss any investigation of any taxpayer due to disclosure laws," said spokeswoman Jean Carl.

Contacted at her home on Monaco Parkway in Denver, Stewart declined to talk on camera and referred questions to her attorney.

Escort sources tell 9NEWS that police seized business records, credit card receipts, computers and other documents from Stewart's home and business.

Stewart kept detailed records of her clients' information, including their names, phone numbers and e-mail addresses, according to sources.

Possible charges

Several sources told 9NEWS they think it's unfair if law enforcement pursues charges against the escorts, but not the clients.

"I think it's important, if they are serious about the problem of escort agencies, that they need to fully prosecute the patrons as well as the escorts," one source told 9NEWS. "If they are going to bust escorts, they should bust everyone."

Escorts told 9Wants to Know they've been interviewed by police and some have identified their clients by name.

Even so, 9NEWS legal analyst Scott Robinson says the so-called "johns" may not be charged and the public may never learn their identity.

"Traditionally, police departments are very reluctant to release the names of the clients," Robinson said. "There are good reasons, right reasons to not release the names of clients of prostitutes - maybe they haven't committed a crime."

"The wrong reason," he said, "is to hide the identity of the guilty because they're a prominent member of society."

If police charge the escorts, Robinson said, they should also charge their customers.

"Ultimately, if a crime is proven to have occurred, both the prostitute and the client should be held accountable publicly, "Robinson said. "Their name should not be held secret in a society that has open and public justice."

Investigation has chilling effect

The investigation has scared several escorts enough that they have taken their ads off Internet message boards, according to sources.

"I have never seen everyone so freaked out. This is having a major impact on the community, the women are not working," one source in the escort industry told 9Wants to Know.

The source said some escorts are only working with clients they know well, while other escorts are opting for other jobs.

Investigation still ongoing

Escort sources tell 9NEWS Denver Players has been in business at least five years.

The U.S. Attorney's office is working with the IRS to see what, if any, charges should be filed, according to Exec. Assistant United States Attorney David Gaouette.

The search warrant is expected to be unsealed within the next few days, according to Gaouette, who declined to elaborate on the case.

"It is an ongoing criminal investigation and I will not comment on it," said U.S. Attorney Troy Eid. "It's a substantial investigation and there's lots of investigating still to do."

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