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Thread: Police struggle with escort enforcement

  1. #1

    Arrow Police struggle with escort enforcement

    Police struggle with escort enforcement

    BY DEENA WINTER / Lincoln Journal Star
    Saturday, Mar 22, 2008 - 12:30:50 am CDT

    Four years ago, as Lincoln Police Capt. Bob Wilhelm was on his way home from work, a hooker at 12th and E offered him sex for $20.

    A month later, vice cop Russ Fossler was working undercover, negotiating sex with an escort in a motel room. Her fee: $450.

    Police Chief Tom Casady jokes that Fossler isn’t a very good negotiator, but escort services are no laughing matter to police — particularly those that are fronts for prostitution, such as the high-end escort service that brought down New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer.

    In fact, the Lincoln Police Department years ago proposed an ordinance to regulate escort services and ban sexually oriented escorts.

    But the police couldn’t get city hall interested, and the ordinance languished in the city attorney’s office, never making it to the City Council for consideration.

    Without regulation of the industry, police are left to make sure escorts don’t violate prostitution laws. In other words, escorts can’t sell sex of any kind.

    But some do.

    “It’s kind of like we’re just choosing to turn a blind eye to prostitution,” Assistant Police Chief Jim Peschong said.

    Escorts not hard to find

    Unlike hookers lurking on street corners, escorts don’t have to hide: They advertise.

    About 10 services are advertised in the local phone book, offering everything from nude massage to fantasy role-playing. Local escorts advertised on the Internet are more sensuous, with photos of women in provocative poses.

    Fossler has gone undercover to catch escorts, and estimates about one-fourth of them sell sex. Some even agree to sex over the phone — an easy bust for police.

    Legally, escorts can do almost anything short of having sex, from lap dances to nude massages.

    Two local escort service owners said most women charge about $100 an hour, plus tips, which can range from $50 to $200.

    And it’s those $200 tips that make police wonder what kind of services they’re really offering.

    “The operators of these businesses claim that’s their only business and act as if they are aghast when the occasional employee freelances and commits an act of prostitution,” Casady said.

    The operators of escort services often elude prosecution by employing a “don’t ask, don’t tell” defense, but Casady says they’re clearly complicit.

    “For somebody operating one of these businesses to claim that they have no idea such things go on, or that the employee was violating their policy, is just ludicrous,” he said.

    But two women who’ve operated escort services in Lincoln for nearly a decade say they do not allow their employees to sell sex.

    “I do not condone illegal behavior,” said a woman who goes by Reese DeBaccio, which, she said is her “manager name,” not her legal name.

    DeBaccio, who has operated Allure Entertainment for about nine years, got into the business after losing her computer job when her employer found out about her criminal history. She had been charged with prostitution, but the charge was reduced to disturbing the peace.

    That stain on her record made it difficult to get a job, she said. So she turned to escort services, figuring she might as well make money from men who would pay to see her naked. Now, she manages other women.

    Her business is about “visual entertainment,” she said, not prostitution — even though she thinks prostitution should be legalized.

    She looks for women with enough “self-love” and self-respect to say no to sex.

    “Every red-blooded man is going to try to get more than what he is welcome to,” she said.

    She gets vulgar calls and questions, but said most customers are just lonely — sometimes gloomy — men looking for companionship, someone to listen to them “bellyache.” Rarely are they looking for a “date.”

    “My heart breaks for a lot of these guys,” she said. “I’ve had men break down and cry in my lap and ask me to read from the Bible and witness to them.”

    For $100 an hour?

    “Some agencies keep the fee and make girls work for tips,” she said. “That’s where you start having problems.”

    She splits the $100 with the escort, she said.

    Fossler knows DeBaccio, and doesn’t believe she allows her women to prostitute themselves.

    “However, she has had some girls that have gone rogue on her and done prostitution,” he said.

    Most of her escorts are single moms trying to provide for their children. Most have experienced some type of sexual abuse, she said.

    Agencies come and go

    “Sabrina Leigh,” an exotic dancer at regional clubs, runs a Lincoln escort agency called Exposed Entertainment.

    She says she only hires women who play by the rules: No sex.

    She gets “pretty nasty” if the customer insinuates he wants sex, she said. Most just want a private dancer or massage.

    Her women pay her a $50 “contact fee” and charge about $120 per hour for nude modeling, dancing, massages or adult conversation. But she acknowledged it’s impossible to be sure escorts don’t go beyond the law, because she’s not there.

    So many agencies have come and gone, she said, she no longer knows all the local players. And she doesn’t know whether they offer sex.

    An escort’s overhead consists of little more than a phone number, an ad in the phone book and maybe a Web site. But services come and go so often Leigh assumes many can’t make enough money to stay in business. She said she makes a living primarily by dancing.

    Police would like the industry regulated, in part so they can keep better tabs on who’s coming and going.

    About five years ago, Fossler returned from Wichita, Kan., with an ordinance that city adopted after escort services started proliferating.

    The number of services there dwindled after the ordinance went into effect, Fossler says.

    Assistant Lincoln Police Chief Peschong worked with the department’s legal adviser on a 27-page ordinance modeled after Wichita’s.

    But that was several years ago, and nobody can explain why nothing has happened.

    The ordinance would ban escorts from having any kind of sex or touching sexual organs. They could still do nude massages, for example, but couldn’t touch the genital area.

    Escort agencies would have to get a $100 annual license and their records — including names of escorts and patrons — would be open to police inspection.

    Escort service operators could not have felonies or sex crimes on their records.

    If the ordinance were passed, Fossler said, he would not have to spend so much time just keeping tabs on who’s who in the business.

    And the city could deny licenses to those convicted of certain crimes, which would cut down on cases where escorts steal from customers.

    DeBaccio and Leigh said they’d be OK if the city required them to get licensed.

    “I’ve been audited, so I’ve already been through the ringer,” Leigh said.

    When escorts began to proliferate in Lincoln in the 1990s, and particularly in 2004, police began seeing more related crimes, often stemming from arguments over money.

    But victims are reluctant to report the crimes, because they don’t want the world to know they were with an escort.

    “It’s a pretty dangerous situation because both are operating on the fringes,” Peschong said. “I tend to think there’s a lot of victims out there.”

    Casady estimated police make one or two escorts arrests per year, because the department only does stings once or twice a year.

    It’s difficult to justify spending some $1,500 to conduct stings more often, Fossler said.

    Each takes up the time of half a dozen officers working overtime, he said.

    “We’d like to do more,” Fossler said. “I could use help.”

    And not just in negotiating better prices.
    "There are only two tragedies in life: one is not getting what one wants, and the other is getting it."
    - Oscar Wilde

  2. #2
    Quote Originally Posted by Equanimity
    They have escorts in Lincoln Nebraska ? Who knew. I bet she works at the John Deere dealership during the day.
    Maybe she works on the farm during the day, like Daisy Duke:



    "There are only two tragedies in life: one is not getting what one wants, and the other is getting it."
    - Oscar Wilde

  3. #3
    Quote Originally Posted by General Gonad
    Police struggle with escort enforcement

    Police Chief Tom Casady jokes that Fossler isn’t a very good negotiator, but escort services are no laughing matter to police — particularly those that are fronts for prostitution...
    I guess the other agencies are there to provide a companion to go to the deli with you or help you take out the trash.

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