3rd guilty plea in Spitzer call girl ring

June 12, 2008 1:27:19 PM PDT
The operator of a high-priced escort service that counted New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer among its clients pleaded guilty Thursday after a criminal probe put the company out of business and Spitzer out of office. Mark Brener, 62, of Cliffside Park, N.J., became the third of four defendants to plead guilty in a case that crushed the image of a governor who gained power and prestige as a tough talking prosecutor and champion of women's rights.

Brener, who pleaded guilty to conspiracy as part of a deal with prosecutors, agreed Thursday to serve 2 to 2 1/2 years in prison. He will be sentenced Sept. 16.

Spitzer resigned March 12, leaving his reputation in tatters, after it was revealed he was "Client-9" in a court document that listed the exploits of unidentified customers of Brener's Emperors Club VIP.

Spitzer has not been charged, though an investigation continues that could still lead to charges stemming from his Feb. 13 rendevous in Washington, D.C. with a prostitute known as "Kristen," who was paid $4,300.

Law enforcement authorities monitored the meeting of the pair, listened in on Spitzer's telephone calls and analyzed his bank records.

Brener's plea came a week after his former girlfriend, 23-year-old Cecil Suwal, pleaded guilty to conspiracy. The former University of Miami student who graduated from a prestigious prep school lived with Brener prior to their arrests.

A month ago, Temeka Lewis, a booking agent for the escort service, pleaded guilty to similar charges. The remaining defendant, Tanya Hollander, who also was accused of being a booking agent, has been negotiating a possible plea bargain, according to her attorney, Michael C. Farkas.

Lewis agreed to cooperate with federal authorities but Suwal did not formally agree to do as part of her plea.

Brener, a widower and former financial consultant from Israel who has lived in the U.S. for 20 years, operated the agency, which charged clients up to $5,500 an hour for the services of its women in the United States and Europe, authorities said.

Prosecutors described Brener as the Emperors Club leader with ultimate decision-making authority. They said he recruited prospective prostitutes, decided how to market them to clients and resolved any problems that arose.

The services were advertised on a Web site that included photographs of the bodies of the women with their faces hidden alongside hourly rates that varied from $1,000 to $3,100 per hour, depending on how many "diamonds" the women received in the club's ranking system.

The most highly ranked prostitutes could charge fees of $5,500 an hour, authorities said.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.) AP-NY-06-12-08 1602EDT