ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Two aging professors accused of running a sophisticated prostitution website appeared to have one goal: Police say they wanted to create a place where respected men like themselves could go for sex without having to worry about getting caught up in street stings.
"They have a lot to lose, and they tried to build an organization to protect themselves," Albuquerque police Lt. William Roseman said.
The website, based in the Albuquerque-Santa Fe area, featured "weather reports" about police vice stings; physical descriptions and cellphone numbers of undercover police to help members avoid arrest; training videos on what to do if members were busted; and detailed information on the prostitutes themselves, including prices and star performance rankings from other members.
Southwest Companions, with 1,400 members, was invitation-only, and new members were vetted as they worked their way up through three tiers. The first level was "probation," Lt. Roseman said, where the new clients secured prostitutes through the site.
After they hooked up, the prostitute would tell a moderator what she did and how much she was paid. As the members progressed through the "verified" and "trusted" tiers, they gained access to more information about undercover officers and the hookers.
The hookers were paid in cash, with prices ranging from $200 for a single act to as much as $1,000 for an hour of time. Police found no evidence students were recruited, or that the site was a university network.
David C. Flory, a physics professor at Fairleigh Dickinson University in New Jersey, is suspected of buying the site in 2009. The site was created by Cara Garrett. Investigators say Miss Garrett was still involved in the ring when she tipped police to its existence in December after being arrested on drug, child abuse and prostitution charges.
Mr. Flory, 68, who lives in New Jersey but has a home in Santa Fe, told police he bought the site to create a safe place for people to buy and sell sex, referring to it as a hobby, Lt. Roseman said.
Mr. Flory, who used the handle "David 8," ran the site and was the main moderator, police said. He scolded people for being too graphic and failing to use the site's acronyms for describing specific acts, according to the criminal complaint. Members were removed if they were arrested or found to have had contact with police.
Mr. Flory bonded out of jail on Wednesday and is facing 40 charges of promoting prostitution. He did not return phone calls seeking comment.
Among the site's top echelon was former University of New Mexico President F. Chris Garcia, who used the handle "Burque Pops" while acting as a moderator, police said.
But his main job, police said, was to act as a leader of the site's "Hunt Club," which looked for new talent -- prostitutes willing to come to New Mexico. Police identified at least 20 women recruited by "Burque Pops."
Mr. Garcia's attorney, David Serna, called his client "one of the most respected citizens the state has ever known." He added that he learned a long time ago to "view with scrutiny" what is said by Albuquerque police at a news conference.
Mr. Garcia faces charges of promoting prostitution, conspiracy and tampering with evidence.
He made his first appearance Friday along with two other defendants, Douglas Plummer, 40, who owns a landscaping company in Albuquerque, and Mike Dorsey, 36, who lives in New Mexico. Mr. Plummer and Mr. Dorsey both face charges of promoting prostitution and conspiracy.
The judge set their bond at $35,000 each and restricted them from using the Internet.
Mr. Garcia has been suspended from his current post as professor emeritus of political science at the University of New Mexico.
Ring leaders did not appear to be getting kickbacks in the prostitution ring. But the investigation was continuing, with the Secret Service looking into financial dealings.