New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft has been charged with two counts of soliciting prostitution at a Florida spa that is allegedly tied to an international human trafficking ring, police said Friday.
The 77-year-old was charged with paying for sexual services at the Orchids of Asia Day Spa in Jupiter, Florida on two occasions. He has not been arrested, according to police, but a misdemeanor warrant has been issued.
Police say there is video evidence of Kraft involved in sex acts with prostitutes.
Through a spokesperson, Kraft has denied the allegations: ‘We categorically deny that Mr. Kraft engaged in any illegal activity. Because it is a judicial matter, we will not be commenting further.’
The spa was one of 10 that were reportedly shut down in Florida after a seven-month investigation found women in ‘sexual servitude,’ according to arrest records. About 200 arrest warrants have been issued in recent days and more are expected.
According to Martin County Sheriff Will Snyder, women were forced to live in the spa and were prevented from leaving. Many of the women, Snyder explained, came from China.
Kraft is one of 25 men being specifically charged with soliciting another to commit prostitution, according to Jupiter Police Chief Daniel Kerr.
According to UPI’s Al Butler, Kraft is ‘not the biggest name involved’ in this case.
The Patriots won the Super Bowl earlier this month in Atlanta.
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New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft has been charged with two counts of soliciting prostitution at a Florida spa that is allegedly tied to an international human trafficking ring, police said Friday. On February 3 his Patriots won their sixth Super Bowl. He attended the game with girlfriend Ricki Noel Lander (pictured)
Robert Kraft’s wife Myra (near right) died from cancer in 2011 at 68. In 2012, it was revealed that Kraft was dating actress and model Ricki Noel Lander (left), 39. Lander did give birth to a child in 2017, and while there was speculation it was his, Kraft has denied being the father following the child’s birth in 2018. The two were seen together at the Super Bowl
The Orchids of Asia Day Spa’s owner, 58-year-old Hua Zhang, was arrested and charged with 26 counts of procuring prostitution. Kraft allegedly engaged in two criminal acts at the spa
A sign is posted outside of Orchids of Asia Day Spa, Friday, February 22,2019 in Florida. Jupiter police have charged New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft with misdemeanor solicitation of prostitution. Jupiter Police Chief Daniel Kerr said Friday, that he was shocked to learn Kraft, who is worth $6 billion, was paying for sex inside a strip-mall massage parlor
The NFL did not immediately respond to a message Friday seeking comment. Under league policy, players, owners, coaches and other employees can be punished for ‘conduct detrimental to the integrity of and public confidence in’ the NFL.
‘Ownership and club or league management have traditionally been held to a higher standard and will be subject to more significant discipline when violations of Personal Conduct Policy occur,’ the policy says.
Kraft’s wife Myra died from cancer in 2011 at age 68. The two were married in 1963 and had four children together.
In 2012, it was revealed that Kraft was dating actress and model Ricki Noel Lander, 39.
Lander did give birth to a child in 2017, and while there was speculation it was his, Kraft has denied being the father.
The two attended Super Bowl LIII together on February 3 in Atlanta.
Kraft and his sons are active philanthropists, having reportedly donated over $100 million to several different causes.
Florida’s southeastern coast is inhabited by many high-profile residents, including Kraft
He is also the recipient of the 2019 Genesis Prize from Israel, which has been described as the ‘Jewish Nobel’ prize.
Kraft, the head of a holding company, bought the Patriots in 1994 for $172 million. Since then the franchise has been to 10 Super Bowls, winning six, most recently in on February 3 against the Los Angeles Rams.
He is reportedly worth $6.6 billion, according to Forbes.com, and does own property in Palm Beach. In addition to the Patriots, Kraft also owns the team’s field, Gillette Stadium, and the MLS’s New England Revolution.
Kraft has a lease in the famed Breakers resort in Palm Beach, which is near President Donald Trump’s Mar-A-Lago estate. He owns a double apartment at 1. North Breakers Row in Palm Bleach, according to the Palm Beach Daily News.
Lanyun Ma (left), 49, of Orlando was charged with human trafficking, unlawful transportation for the purpose of prostitution, racketeering and engaging in prostitution. Junhua Dong (right), 50, of Vero Beach is charged with racketeering, engaging in prostitution, and deriving support from proceeds of prostitution
Yan Xu (left), 51, of Sebastian was charged with deriving support from proceeds of prostitution, engaging in prostitution and racketeering. Yaping Ren (right), 27, of Orlando was charged with engaging in prostitution, racketeering, and deriving support from prostitutio
Kenneth Zullo (left), 64, of Sebastian was charged with racketeering. Jupiter Police Chief Daniel Kerr (right) announced Friday that Kraft was being charged with solicitation
The 77-year-old Kraft was charged with paying for sexual services at the Orchids of Asia Day Spa in Jupiter, Florida. He has not been arrested, according to police
In September, an undercover Vero Beach detective recorded several alleged crimes at one spa. In each instance, the masseuse allegedly offered sexual favors, ranging from $200 for intercourse to $100 for oral sex and hand stimulation for as low as $40, according to TCPalm.com.
Vero Beach Police Chief David Currey explained the conditions to reporters Thursday.
‘These girls are there all day long, into the evening. They can’t leave and they’re performing sex acts,’ Currey said. ‘Some of them may tell us they’re OK, but they’re not. We know that… even though we may have charges on some of them, we’d rather them be victims.’
The spa’s owner, 58-year-old Hua Zhang, was arrested and charged with 26 counts of procuring prostitution.
Six other ‘major players’ were arrested as part of the prostitution and human trafficking ring. Lanyun Ma, Liyan Zhang, Junhua Dong, Yan Xu, Kenneth Zullo, and Yaping Ren were charged with crimes such as prostitution, racketeering and deriving support from prostitution.
SIX ‘MAJOR PLAYERS’ CHARGED IN HUMAN TRAFFICKING AND PROSTITUTION RING
- Lanyun Ma, 49, of Orlando was charged with human trafficking, unlawful transportation for the purpose of prostitution, racketeering and engaging in prostitution (Bail set at $155,500)
- Liyan Zhang, 41, of Pompano Beach was charged with operating a house of prostitution and 30 counts of engaging in prostitution (Bail set at $115,500)
- Junhua Dong, 50, of Vero Beach is charged with racketeering, engaging in prostitution, and deriving support from proceeds of prostitution (Bail set at $250,000)
- Yan Xu, 51, of Sebastian was charged with deriving support from proceeds of prostitution, engaging in prostitution and racketeering (Bail set at 150,500)
- Kenneth Zullo, 64, of Sebastian was charged with racketeering (Bail set at $100,000)
- Yaping Ren, 27, of Orlando was charged with engaging in prostitution, racketeering, and deriving support from prostitution
Their bails were set for anywhere from $100,000 to $250,000.
According to WPTV, about 200 people face charges of soliciting prostitution in Indian River County Florida.
‘As of this morning we’ve issued 171 arrest warrants, the sheriff’s office has processed those. And we have arrested 45 individuals,’ Indian River County Sheriff Deryl Loar said Thursday.
According to Loar, staff at the East Sea Spa on U.S. 1 was not allowed to exit.
‘Clearly our focus is on the human trafficking, the sex trafficking,’ he said.
‘These johns either knowingly or not knowingly were certainly supplying the funds to perpetuate human trafficking,’ Loar continued. ‘We also know that staff at times was not allowed to leave the spa in other words they were living in the spa.’
Local police had received tips, prompting investigators to conduct an undercover surveillance operation over the course of several months.
Now dozens of johns are facing charges.
‘These are fathers, uncles and sons and family members of others,’ Vero Beach Police Chief David Currey said.
Orlando’s Yongzhang Yan owns the Vero Beach spa and AA Massage in Sebastian, as well as the Winter Park and Orlando Spas. According to police, his wife, Lanyun Ma, was in charge of the day-to-day operations at Vero Beach, TCPalm.com reported.
Police allegedly observed the couple transporting multiple women to and from the spa ‘for the purpose of sexual servitude,’ Ma’s arrest warrant reads.
Ma was also allegedly seen purchasing condoms.
Some of the women – many of who came from China on work visas – were forced to stay for days at a time, while others did not leave for months, according to police.
‘Some of them are trying to make a better life for themselves,’ Currey said. ‘These people truly are stuck.’
Some of the women were allegedly conned into believing they were taking legitimate jobs, while others believed they were becoming real masseurs, but were later asked to engage in illegal activities.
Kenneth Zullo, 64, was seen transporting the women between spas and other locations, including the airport, according to his arrest warrant. Police reportedly had a tracking device on his car.
The investigation was launched in October following a health department complaint at East Sea Spa in Sebastian, Florida. An employee reported seeing clothing, bedding, suitcases, and other signs that people were living in the spa, which is owned and managed by Liyan Zhang, who was arrested and charged with 30 counts of prostitution.
Zhang had $22,000 cash in her purse, Loar told reporters. He estimates the business made over $1 million annually.
Beginning in December, police began stopping men after they paid for sex acts at the spa.
Police say they observed 140 sex acts performed for money.
Robert and Myra Kraft pictured after donating $20 million to Partners HealthCare. She passed away in 2011 at the age of 68. The couple had four children together
Robert Kraft and Ricki Noel Lander kiss at a Lakers game in 2016
Kraft has drawn criticism in recent years for his support of President Donald Trump, who also has a residence in Palm Beach, Florida.
Beyond donating to Trump’s inaugural fund, Kraft has also been a public support and friend of Trump.
Before the Super Bowl on February 3, Trump told ‘Face the Nation’ that he would be supporting his ‘friend and longtime supporter,’ Kraft.
Most people charged for the first time for soliciting a prostitute in Florida are allowed to enter a diversion program, said attorney David Weinstein, a former prosecutor. Kraft would have to perform 100 hours of community service and pay to attend an educational program about the negative effects of prostitution and human trafficking.
Kraft, who made his initial fortune through a packaging company, was a Patriots season ticket owner when he purchased the team’s previous stadium during in 1988.
He hired Bill Belichick to be his coach in 2000 and the team subsequently drafted quarterback Tom Brady, launching their nearly two decades of success.
Kraft recently credited Patriots quarterback Tom Brady with helping him through the painful days following his wife Myra’s death
Under Kraft, the Patriots have been the most successful team in pro sports, having made it to 10 Super Bowls, winning six, including this year against the Los Angeles Rams.
But there also have been issues involving team actions under Belichick.
In 2007, the Patriots were caught filming signals from New York Jets coaches; New England was suspected of doing so against other teams, as well, and that was confirmed later on. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell fined the Patriots $250,000 and stripped them of their 2008 first-round draft pick. Belichick was fined $500,000, the most an NFL coach ever was fined.
In the 2014 AFC championship game, the team – specifically, star quarterback Tom Brady – was accused by the Indianapolis Colts of doctoring footballs.
The NFL concluded that Patriots employees were involved in deflating the footballs and Brady was ‘at least generally aware’ it was being done. After lengthy legal battles, Brady served a four-game suspension at the beginning of the 2016 season and the Patriots were fined $1 million – the heftiest for a team in league history. New England was stripped of a first-round and a fourth-round draft choice.
Neither Kraft nor Belichick were implicated after the investigation.
Patriots owner Robert Kraft (right), and his wife Myra (left), walk the sidelines at Gillette Stadium prior to the kickoff of the New England-Kansas City game. She passed away in 2011