Maine town abuzz after john suspect names released

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KENNEBUNK, Maine — The first batch of more than 100 men accused of paying a fitness instructor for sex were laying low after police began releasing their names in a small New England town where rumors have run rampant for weeks.

Police on Monday released 21 names of men who were issued summons for engaging in prostitution with a 29-year-old Zumba instructor who’s charged with turning her dance studio into a brothel in this seaside community and secretly videotaping her encounters.

Residents watched the news flash on their local evening TV news, and people could be heard discussing who was on the list as they walked through a supermarket parking lot and stood in line at a convenience store shortly after the names were made public.

The rumors are likely to continue in the weeks ahead as police release the names of other accused johns in police activity reports that are issued every other week listing people charged with offenses ranging from allowing dogs to run at large and marijuana possession to driving under the influence.

A judge ordered the release of names without ages or addresses, so it was not immediately clear their occupations and roles in the community, if any.

Kim Ackley, a local real estate agent, said that disclosure of the names will cause temporary pain for families but it’s only fair because others who are charged with embarrassing crimes don’t get breaks.

“What’s fair for one has to be fair for the other,” said Ackley, who believes she knows several people on the list. “The door can’t swing just one way.”

Residents had been anxiously awaiting the release of names since 29-year-old Alexis Wright was charged this month with engaging in prostitution in her dance studio and in an office she rented across the street. Police said she kept meticulous records suggesting the sex acts generated $150,000 over 18 months.

Wright, from nearby Wells, has pleaded not guilty to 106 counts of prostitution, invasion of privacy and other charges. Her business partner, 57-year-old insurance agent and private investigator Mark Strong Sr., from Thomaston, has pleaded not guilty to 59 misdemeanor charges.

Police said more than 150 people are suspected of being clients and many of them were videotaped without their knowledge.

In town, residents heard the list could include lawyers, law enforcement officers and well-known people, heightening their curiosity.

The list of names was delayed Friday by legal action by an attorney representing two of the people accused of being johns. The lawyer, Stephen Schwartz, said releasing the names will ruin people’s lives, even if they’re acquitted of the misdemeanor charges against them.

Superior Court Justice Thomas Warren on Monday denied a motion seeking to block disclosure of the names. But he ordered that addresses should be withheld for those people who might have been victims of invasion of privacy when their acts were recorded. The Associated Press reached out Monday evening to men on the list, but it was difficult to confirm their identities without knowing their addresses.

Andrew Stanley, of Kennebunk, said the names should’ve been released sooner. Wright’s alleged customers, he said, were mostly people with money or power who attempted to buy their way out of trouble through legal action.

“I think the names should have been released the second they were charged,” he said.

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