Strong claims police retaliated for his probe of departmentKennebunk police call Strong's claims inaccurate
Kennebunk — Mark Strong Sr., 57, the Thomaston insurance agent and private investigator charged with running a prostitution ring along with a Zumba dancer, Alexis Wright, 29, of Wells, on Oct. 17 filed a public statement saying the Kennebunk Police Department retaliated against him for investigating the department.
The department, later in the same day, issued a press release claiming there was inaccurate information in Strong's statement and that he portrayed the department and several of its sworn officers in a false light.
Kennebunk officials said they are aware that the town has been drawn into a media spotlight regarding criminal activity by individuals allegedly engaging a prostitute within town limits in violation of Maine criminal law.
In response, the police department said it is serving summonses to those individuals allegedly involved in the case, including the so-called "johns," or clients of prostitution, and is planning to release the names, ages and addresses in the regular semi-weekly police report in accordance with the department's regular practice of updating the police blotter.
Only the names of those individuals for whom summonses have been issued, based on probable cause, will be released.
Meanwhile, in his public letter, Strong wrote that he had met Wright several years ago and that they developed a personal relationship.
"I have never had sex with her for money," he said. "I am a businessman and I loaned her money to start a legitimate Zumba dance studio with the usual promissory notes at commercial interest rates and she paid back those loans," Strong wrote.
"I also co-signed a lease so she could rent her studio. I did not promote or participate in her business," he said.
"In addition to my insurance agency, I am a licensed private investigator. At one point, I conducted an investigation on Ms. Wright's behalf because of concerns she had that the Kennebunk Police Department was harassing her."
"In the course of that investigation, I discovered unprofessional conduct including an affair that a female officer, Audra Presby, was having with her superior officer. He resigned and she was suspended; there was no internal investigation," he said.
"Kennebunk Police Officer Audra Presby is the lead investigator against me in this case. The Kennebunk Police Department seized all my computers and external hard drive that contained the details of my investigation against them," he wrote. "To date, they have refused to give them back to me or my attorney."
Strong said that his investigation of the Kennebunk police also disclosed that a police officer shot a woman four times at point blank range and killed her. The police officer who killed her was never charged in the death.
"It is my belief that the Kennebunk Police Department, with Officer Presby heading up the investigation, publicly charged me with one count of promotion of prostitution and arrested only me on July 10, 2012, and confiscated computers in my house and place of business as retaliation against me for my investigation or their department," Strong wrote.
"They filed sworn affidavits in court suggesting illegal conduct on my part that was prejudicial, defamatory and not accurate. No other defendants were charged. Three months later, on Oct. 3, 2012, other people were charged in connection with the case and even more charges were lodged against me," he wrote.
"These charges against me are untrue," Strong said. "I have made some bad choices, but have broken no laws. If these charges are not dropped, I will be vindicated in a jury trial which I have demanded to be held as soon as possible."
Lt. Anthony Bean Burpee of the Kennebunk police on Oct. 17 issued a statement denouncing the accuracy of the statement sent by Strong.
"The town of Kennebunk has again been drawn into the media headlines regarding criminal activity at the Zumba dance studio, this time by the issuance of an inaccurate press release by one of the principal defendants charged with the promotion of prostitution at that facility," Bean Burpee wrote.
"While it would be inappropriate for the town to try the case in the media, and it will not do so, Mr. Strong's press release is inaccurate in many instances that portray both the department and several of its sworn officers in a false light, and that must be corrected," Bean Burpee wrote.
"First, the department has never 'harassed' either Ms. Wright or Mr. Strong. Both have been investigated because of the existence of probable cause that one or more crimes may have been committed at the dance studio.
"All subsequent searches of Ms. Wright's properties in Kennebunk and Mr. Strong's properties in Thomaston were pursuant to valid search warrants approved in advance by the District Attorney's office and authorized by a state court judge," according to Bean Burpee.
"The department's efforts here were all the result of professional police investigation, based on probable cause, and pursued with the approval of the District Attorney's office, he said.
"Second, Mr. Strong's suggestion that his investigative efforts 'disclosed' misconduct by department personnel and that he was then targeted for retaliation is completely false," Bean Burpee said. "The fatal shooting he references was fully reported in the press at the time, and a subsequent in-depth investigation by the Maine Attorney General's office — as is customary under Maine law — exonerated the police officer completely.
"For Mr. Strong to now say that he 'discovered' this incident is not only false, but an inappropriate exploitation of an incident that remains tragic for all involved," Bean Burpee said. "It has absolutely nothing to do with the dance studio investigation and illegal activities there.
"Third, Officer Presby was selected to investigate the dance studio incidents, in part, because the department felt it appropriate to have one of its three female officers on the investigation team (along with two male state police officers) and, in part, because at the time the dance studio investigation began in earnest, she was working days on a patrol shift and the chief felt that her shift position could be covered more easily than other shift positions," Bean Burpee said.
"Three years ago, unrelated to the dance studio investigation, she was given a written reprimand for having a romantic relationship with another officer in the department; pursuant to state law, the reprimand was a public record. She was never suspended. The other officer elected to resign from the department; he was not fired. The two are now engaged to be married. This incident did not then, nor now, have anything to do with the dance studio investigation," he said.
"And, finally, the department has returned to Mr. Strong those computers seized from him that were determined not to have any information on them relevant to the dance studio investigations," Bean Burpee wrote. "Others determined to have information on them relevant to the criminal investigations have not been returned, for obvious reasons, after consultation with the District Attorney's office."
Courier Publications reporter George Chappell can be reached by phone at 207-594-4401, ext. 117, or by email at email@example.com.