Men ID'd in Maine Zumba studio prostitution case

October 26, 2012 - 6:33 PM
Zumba Prostitution

FILE-In this Oct. 12, 2012, file photo, a Unitarian Universalist church dominates one end of downtown Kennebunk, Maine. The New England coastal town has grown weary of its 15 minutes of fame following the Zumba prostitution scandal. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

KENNEBUNK, Maine (AP) — Police on Friday released another round of names of men they believe paid for sex with a woman who's charged with using her Zumba dance studio as a front for prostitution in the seaside town.

The names bring to 39 the number of men charged with engaging a prostitute. Many more names will be released in coming weeks, police say.

None of the 18 men whose names were released Friday was from Kennebunk, a town of about 10,000 residents known for its beaches, sea captain's mansions and New England charm. They came from elsewhere in Maine, New Hampshire and Boston and apparently didn't include anyone who's widely known.

The prostitution scandal has been unfolding in slow motion, with the first 21 john suspects' names released two weeks ago. The names released so far include a former mayor and the local high school ice hockey coach.

The town made international headlines when dance instructor Alexis Wright was charged this month with engaging in prostitution. Police said she videotaped many of the encounters without her clients' knowledge and kept meticulous records suggesting the sex acts generated $150,000 over 18 months.

Wright, of nearby Wells, has pleaded not guilty to 106 counts including prostitution and invasion of privacy. Her business partner, insurance agent Mark Strong Sr., of Thomaston, pleaded not guilty to 59 misdemeanor counts.

A lawyer who has seen the complete list of john suspects says it contains the names of more than 150 men, some of them prominent.

It'll take seven more weeks to complete interviews of the remaining men expected to be charged, Deputy District Attorney Justina McGettigan said in a court document.

The remaining names will trickle out as the Kennebunk Police Department releases them on its biweekly activity log. The next batch is due Nov. 8.

Travis Munroe, general manager of the H.B. Provisions store, said local chat about the scandal had died down before the new names were released Friday.

"Everybody seems to be past it, and nobody's talking about (it), and then another Friday rolls around and it gets dragged out again," he said.

Only two of the john suspects are from Kennebunk. Nonetheless, the scandal has hit the community hard, with unwanted publicity, rampant speculation over who's on the list and fears that families will be torn apart.

"There is that concern that we will see a large impact on the children in schools and we will see those marriages that fail because of this," said Laura Dolce, editor of the York County Coast Star weekly newspaper.

The Rev. Mary Zachary-Lang, a licensed clinical counselor, said it's not so important whether the men are from Kennebunk or elsewhere but how the community responds. She has offered her services for free to those who've been touched by the scandal.

She said she hopes residents will use the scandal "to inspire compassion and love instead of derision and blame."

As for Munroe, he said many local residents are simply fed up with the media attention.

"Most people from this area are kind of sick of hearing about it," he said. "Stop making it sound like this is the only town in the world that could have something like this happen."

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Associated Press writer David Sharp in Portland contributed to this report.