Patriots owner Robert Kraft among 200 charged in Florida prostitution sting

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Friday, February 22, 2019
Patriots owner Robert Kraft among 200 charged in Florida prostitution sting
Ryan Field reports on the prostitution sting involving New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft.

JUPITER, Florida (WABC) -- New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft is among 200 charged in a massage parlor prostitution sting in Florida.

Kraft is accused of soliciting a prostitute at the Orchids of Asia Day Spa at 103 US-1 in Jupiter on at least two separate occasions roughly a month ago.

Police say they have body cam video and surveillance from over the last several months.

The 77-year-old is not in custody. He has been charged with the misdemeanor and will have to appear in court at a later date.

Jupiter police said a warrant will be issued, and that details about the charges against the owner of the Super Bowl champion team will not be released until next week.

Jupiter Police Chief Daniel Kerr said he was shocked to learn Kraft, who is worth $6 billion, was allegedly paying for sex inside a strip-mall massage parlor.

"We are as equally stunned as everyone else," Kerr said.

The charge comes amid a widespread crackdown on sex trafficking in the area surrounding Palm Beach County. About 200 arrest warrants have been issued in recent days, and more are expected.

In a statement, a spokesperson for Kraft said they "categorically deny that Mr. Kraft engaged in any illegal activity. Because it is a judicial matter, we will not be commenting further."

Multiple law enforcement agencies were involved in the prostitution/human trafficking operation, including Homeland Security, the IRS, Jupiter police, the Palm Beach Sheriff's Office and others.

Authorities say the women accused of running the sex trafficking ring were operating out of local spas that claimed to be massage parlors. Ten spas have been closed, and several people have been taken into custody on sex trafficking charges.

The Patriots won the Super Bowl this month over the Los Angeles Rams for their sixth NFL championship in the past 18 seasons, making them the most successful team in pro sports during that span.

The NFL issued a brief statement, reading "The NFL is aware of the ongoing law enforcement matter and will continue to monitor developments."

Kraft lives in Massachusetts and has a home in the Palm Beach area. Though he is a Democrat, he is friendly with President Donald Trump and a frequent guest at Trump's Mar-a-Lago club.

Kraft's wife, Myra Hiatt Kraft, died in 2011. He has been dating 39-year-old actress Ricki Noel Lander since 2012.

Vero Beach police Chief David Currey, whose agency has been involved in the sex-trafficking investigation, told reporters earlier this week that the prostitutes are victims who have been trapped into the trade.

"These girls are there all day long, into the evening," Currey said. "They can't leave, and they are performing sex acts. Some of them may tell us they're OK, but they're not."

Kraft, who made his initial fortune through a packaging company, bought the Patriots in 1994 for $172 million to keep the team from moving to St. Louis. He hired Bill Belichick as coach in 2000, and the team later drafted quarterback Tom Brady, launching its nearly two decades of success.

In 2007, the Patriots got in trouble for filming other teams' signals. The NFL fined the team $250,000 and Belichick $500,000. In 2014, Brady was accused of deflating game footballs to gain a better grip. He served a four-game suspension, and the Patriots were fined $1 million.

Kraft was not implicated in either scandal.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report)