- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 8, 2007

Federal prosecutors want to keep a California woman accused of running a prostitution business in the District from identifying her former clients.

Deborah J. Palfrey, who was indicted last week on racketeering and other felony charges, has announced plans to sell off more than a decade’s worth of customer phone records so she can hire an attorney.

But Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel P. Butler is asking a judge for an order that would limit Miss Palfrey’s use of such records for the purposes of preparing her defense in the case.

“This information is detailed and sensitive,” he wrote in a memo filed this week in U.S. District Court in the District. “Moreover, some of the personal information about former customers and employees of defendant’s business is also sensitive based on the nature of that business.”

Mr. Butler also argued Miss Palfrey and her legal defense team “are not entitled to disclose and make use of the material for other purposes.”

Miss Palfrey for months has been entangled in a civil forfeiture case in which authorities last year seized approximately $500,000 in stocks, bank accounts and gold coins.

In a discovery request in the civil case, her attorney, Montgomery Blair Sibley, recently asked the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the identification of each customer and prostitute.

Miss Palfrey, who is scheduled to be arraigned today, is seeking the return of her seized property. As part of the seizure, authorities have placed liens on two of her California properties because they say the houses were purchased with illegal proceeds from the prostitution business.

Mr. Butler also said prosecutors are considering whether to seek a gag order in the case.

Miss Palfrey has set up a Web site on which she stated earlier this week that she has been forced into selling her only remaining asset — “the client records of the escort service” — to defend herself in court. She is represented by a public defender in the criminal case.

In addition, Miss Palfrey disclosed an e-mail she recently sent to Assistant U.S. Attorney William Cowden, who is assigned to the civil forfeiture case. In the e-mail, she asked the government to stop its investigation.

Miss Palfrey said the e-mail was prompted by the January suicide of a Howard County woman, a former sociology professor who had been charged with running an escort service.

“I simply cannot emphasize to you the terrible and quite unnecessary ramifications this case (civil and/or criminal) will set off, if permitted to advance for both sides,” Miss Palfrey wrote.

Prosecutors said Miss Palfrey had run Pamela Martin & Associates as a prostitution ring in the District from her home in California since 1993.

According to the indictment, the prostitution business involved 132 women who were hired primarily through local newspaper ads, with money split between the prostitutes and Miss Palfrey. She was paid through money orders sent to her California post office box, prosecutors said.

The indictment charges that Miss Palfrey placed ads seeking escorts in the Washington City Paper and the University of Maryland’s Diamondback student newspaper.

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