- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 18, 2009

HOUSTON (AP) - Houston police say a couple arrested on prostitution charges ran a major call-girl ring that catered to “big players” in the city. The client list totals about 1,500, police say, and the Houston Chronicle and Houston television station KHOU reported that court documents indicate that the list includes professional athletes, doctors and lawyers. The names haven’t been disclosed.

Debbie Turbiville, 33, and Charles Turbiville, 31, were free on $5,000 bond each Wednesday after their arrests last week.

Police Sgt. Mark Kilty called Debbie Turbiville “the Heidi Fleiss of Houston,” referring to the former Hollywood madam who ran a prostitution ring that catered to wealthy clients around the world before her 1995 conviction.

“She was the one all the big players go to,” Kilty said. “If you come to town and you’re a big player, you call her. She screens you and she knows who you are and then you’re good to go.”

The Turbivilles’ alleged prostitution ring doesn’t appear to be in the same financial stratosphere as Fleiss’, where clients paid as much as $10,000 for a single meeting. Kilty said the Houston ring’s customers were charged upward of $300 an hour for sessions at a hotel or three-bedroom apartment in an upscale area of west Houston.

Customers underwent criminal background checks, Kilty said.

“You had to be brought into what she called ‘her family,’” Kilty said. “These weren’t johns off the street. These were suit-and-tie businessmen. She had the upper scale. She probably had the biggest escort service in Houston.”

The Turbivilles, parents of two children, and two alleged prostitutes are charged with aggravated promotion of prostitution. Conviction on the third-degree felony carries up to 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. Authorities said additional charges are likely.

“Our clients are presumed innocent, and there are rules and the ethics require that we don’t make statements that could influence the jury pool,” said Joe Owmby, one of the couple’s lawyers.

Police said one of the two alleged prostitutes arrested was cooperating with authorities.

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