Strong, Wright plead not guilty Oct. 9 in prostitution caseYork County grand jury indicts pair on more than 160 charges
Portland — Mark Strong Sr. and Alexis Wright, charged with running a prostitution business in Kennebunk for more than a year, pleaded not guilty during their arraignment in Cumberland County Superior Court Tuesday, Oct. 9.
According to the Portland Press Herald, the two business partners appeared before Justice Nancy Mills.
The charges followed York County grand jury indictments for Wright, 29, of Wells, Zumba instructor and owner of Pura Vida Studio in Kennebunk, and Strong, 57, an insurance agent from Thomaston, on charges related to alleged prostitution.
Wright was indicted on 106 counts, including engaging in prostitution, violations of privacy, and tax evasion, between Oct. 1, 2010 and Feb. 29, 2012. Wright is also charged with two counts of theft by deception of greater than $10,000.
Strong was indicted on 59 counts, all misdemeanors, on promotion of prostitution and violation of privacy.
The court documents show that Wright would have sex with clients and secretly record them on equipment provided by Strong. The prosecutors also have bank and phone records that put Strong and Wright together.
The investigation showed that she collected more than $150,000 in fees during the period the business was going on, according to the affidavit from the court.
The affidavit also stated that Strong used his access to Department of Motor Vehicle records to identify possible clients.
On July 10, the Maine State Police arrested Strong, owner of the Strong Agency, a commercial insurance business, on an arrest warrant charging promotion of prostitution, a class D misdemeanor, according to a news release from the Kennebunk Police Department.
The arrest warrant was issued for Strong following a five-month investigation that initially began by the Kennebunk police and later involved the north and south divisions of the Maine State Police's Major Crimes Unit, according to the news release.
In September 2011, Kennebunk police got a tip of possible criminal activity occurring at the dance studio at 8 York St. in Kennebunk. Local police began an investigation, which resulted in their executing three search warrants, with assistance from the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency, in Kennebunk and Wells Feb. 14.
Information on all three search warrants has been sealed by the York County District Attorney's Office since that time and further information is not available, according to the news release.
Lt. Anthony Bean Burpee of the Kennebunk Police Department wrote in an email to The Courier-Gazette Oct. 4 that the records are still sealed until November. He does not know the exact date the seal can be removed because the sealing process is conducted by the York County District Attorney's Office. The sealing of records is done for a 90-day period, he said, and can be resealed upon the expiration date.
The search warrants in the Wright case are on their third go-around, Bean Burpee wrote.
The recent indictment of Wright has no bearing on the sealing of records, Bean Burpee wrote. Her attorney would have access to the information contained in them as part of the attorney's discovery request, he added in the email. However, the attorney cannot share any information with the public owing to the sealing process, Bean Burpee said. The attorney can only use the information to build a case for his or her client.
Strong was represented by Portland attorney Daniel G. Lilley, who said earlier that his client, who is also a private investigator, was hired by Wright because she claimed she was being harassed by the Kennebunk Police Department. Lilley said Wright was also interested in learning the private investigator's business.
Strong also invested in Wright's dance studio and thought it was a good investment, according to Lilley.
Wright was represented by attorney Sarah Churchill.
Until the Oct. 2 grand jury indictment against Wright, Strong was the only person charged in the case. Police said they expect to begin charging Wright's clients in the coming week.
Former Superior Court Justice Joyce Wheeler had recused herself from the case, without giving a reason for her decision, which under law she does not have to do. The Maine Court system named Justice Nancy Mills to preside over the case.
Courier Publications reporter George Chappell can be reached by phone at 594-4401, ext. 117, or by email at email@example.com.