Sex for sale: Escorts talk to 9NEWS after police raid

3:09 PM, Feb 8, 2008   |    comments
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Earlier on Thursday, federal courts unsealed search warrants in the bust.

More than 50 investigators seized business records, appointment sheets, a "Dayplanner" and other appointment records, thousands of dollars in cash, employment records and employee information, film, a cell phone, computers, a PDA and reams of other receipts, phone lists and business cards.

9NEWS was the first to report the January bust on Wednesday night.

The agencies served search warrants on a half-a-dozen locations in the metro area, including banks and other businesses with ties to the business known as Denver Players or Denver Sugar.

The 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/Denver Sugar was an escort service that catered to high-end clients across the state, according to the federal search warrant served on Jan. 25. Escorts told 9NEWS their clients were lawyers, doctors, professional athletes, politicians and judges.

An escort who did not want to be identified spoke with 9NEWS on Thursday.

"There's definitely attorneys. Lots of attorneys it seems – doctors. Just people who do have a lot to lose if they were to be found out," said the escort.

The escort said the raid has left many of the Denver Players escorts frightened.

"Just very scared. Many aren't working now because they're afraid of being recognized," she said. "They're just terrified."

"It's the fear of the public finding out what you've done cause it's not morally right in society's eyes. I personally don't think there's anything wrong with it. If the girl makes the choice to do it, it's her choice and society shouldn't condemn her for it because it's not hurting anybody. It's not like being on Colfax where there's a lot of drugs involved," said the anonymous escort.

While 27 escorts who worked for Denver Players were named in the search warrant, authorities did not name any of the customers. 9NEWS has filed public information requests with the Denver Police Department to obtain the list of client names.

Police also saw and called ads on an Internet escort message board for Denver Players. After doing surveillance the business on 1675 Fillmore Street in Denver, police said they saw "a pattern" of men arrive on foot or (by) car going in and out of the business every 30 minutes or one hour. Police say they have both audio and video surveillance of the clients.

One former employee of Denver Players told police she "performed hundreds, if not thousands, of (sex) acts."

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-calls, where the escort would meet the customer in a hotel room, cost $350 an hour. The former escort told police she worked three nights a week, served three or four clients each night and earned between $200,000 and $300,000 in the last two years.

The escort that spoke with 9NEWS, who is not named in the search warrant and says she did not work with Denver Players, said the service was very professional.

"It's very classy," the unnamed escort told 9NEWS. "Most of the girls are classy, it's just making a client feel good about himself mentally as well as physically."

The escorts gave 30 percent of what they earned to business owner Brenda Stewart of Denver, according to the search warrant. Stewart also owns a media consulting business called Phoenix Media LLC. In the warrant, the IRS said Stewart has more than $500,000 in local bank accounts but did not claim it all on taxes.

Officials at the IRS declined to talk about the case with 9NEWS.

Investigators also served search warrants on Stewart's personal residence on Monaco Parkway in Denver. Police seized business records, credit card receipts, computers and other documents from her home and business. (Click here for a complete list of the seized items.)

Stewart kept detailed records of her clients' information, including their names, phone numbers and email addresses, according to the search warrant. Escort sources told 9NEWS there were hundreds of clients.

Several sources told 9NEWS they think it's unfair that law enforcement named the escorts in the search warrant 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. 9NEWS legal analyst Scott Robinson says the so-called johns may not be charged.

"Traditionally, police departments are very reluctant to release the names of the clients. There are good reasons, right reasons to not release the names of clients of prostitutes, maybe they haven't committed a crime," said Robinson. "The wrong reason is to hide the identity of the guilty because they're a prominent member of society."

Denver Police started investigating Denver Players in September 2005, according to the search warrant. Police sent in a confidential informant named Charlie who posed as a prostitute, according to the warrant. Undercover detectives then made appointments with Charlie to make her appear legitimate. The warrant said police made frequent calls to Charlie in 2007 but only engaged in conversation with her.

Denver Players used to be run out of an apartment building in Denver rented by Stewart, according to the search warrant. After neighbors in nearby apartments started handing out flyers saying that the apartment was being used for prostitution, the landlord did not renew Stewart's lease.

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

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