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Maine Zumba Prostitution Case: What's Next?
04/01/2013   Reported By: Patty B. Wight

Now that former Kennebunk Zumba fitness dance instructor Alexis Wright pleaded guilty to charges of prostitution, there are questions about whether she can profit from her crimes, as well as what's next for her alleged clients who face criminal charges. As Patty Wight reports, there is also closure in Wright's business partner Mark Strong's appeal to his conviction.

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Alexis Wright leaves the court house in a file photo taken during the trial.

Since October, Alexis Wright has been facing 106 criminal counts. Most were misdemeanors relating to prostitution, but three were felony counts for tax and welfare fraud. After two days of negotiations, she pleaded guilty on Friday to reduced charges: 20 misdemeanor counts.

"She has to pay, including fines, $58,000," says York County Deputy District Attorney Justina McGettigan. McGettigan says $1,000 of that total is the fine for engaging in prostitution. The rest is Wright's pay back to the state for cheating on her income tax and welfare benefits while she took in about $150,000 from her prostitution business.

Wright will also spend 10-months in jail after her official sentencing in May. McGettigan says prosecutors explored other restrictions as well. "The Attorney General's Office researched whether or not she could be barred from profiting from her crime, and they do not believe that it could be ordered," she says.

That means Wright could profit from a future book, movie or photo deal.

The same day that Wright reached a plea agreement, her former business partner Mark Strong dropped an appeal to his conviction. Strong is currently serving a 20-day jail sentence and must pay $3,000 in fines. His defense attorney, Tina Nadeau, says the decision had nothing to do with Wright's plea agreement, or the merits of Strong's appeal.

"For various reasons, our client decided that, in order to get on with his life, start the healing process with his family, and among other considerations, that it was the best decision for him," Nadeau says.

Case closed for the major players in the prostitution business. But they had nearly 140 alleged clients, 66 of which have been charged with engaging in prostitution.

"Well I think April is going to be a very active month," says Steve Schwartz, who represents 11 of the alleged clients. He says each case is in different stages: Some are still under investigation, others are scheduled for upcoming plea negotiations, motion hearings, even possible jury trials.

Schwartz says all options are still on the table. But he says, overall, his clients want to stay under the radar. "You know, anything that would allow any of these genetlemen to avoid further public scrutiny would be seen as a positive," he says.

Another lawyer representing four of the alleged clients, Tim Zerillo, says now that Wright's and Strong's cases are over, he predicts many of the cases will work out plea deals.

"Many of my clients were primarily concerned about being called as witnesses in either the Wright or the Strong trial," Zerillo says.

Though it's now possible Wright and Strong could be subpoenaed as witnesses in alleged clients' trials, York County Deputy DA Justina McGettigan says Wright and Strong still have some Fifth Amendment rights that protect them from further incriminating themselves.

McGettigan says the Kennebunk Police Department is now examining evidence against clients who allegedly engaged in prostitution between April 2011 and February 2012. There's a three-year statute of limitations to charge those suspects with a crime.

File photo by Tom Porter.

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