May 31, 2013 9:13 AM
ALFRED, Maine - Just two days before a police raid, a fitness instructor was feeling good about her prostitution business. With a steady stream of clients, she was making tens of thousands of dollars tax-free while continuing to collect public assistance and using her Zumba studio as a front for prostitution.
"I feel like this is going to be a good week," Alexis Wright wrote to her business partner, an insurance agent who monitored the sex acts on his office computer 100 miles away while providing security by checking out johns' license plates.
Her enterprise came to an abrupt halt on Valentine's Day 2012 when a police raid led to the seizure of detailed ledgers, client lists and other evidence indicating she routinely videotaped clients without their knowledge and kept detailed records indicating she made $150,000 over an 18-month period, while collecting more than $40,000 in public assistance.
On Friday, the 30-year-old Wright is due to be sentenced to 10 months in jail for 20 counts including prostitution, conspiracy, tax evasion and theft by deception.
The scandal in the seaside town of Kennebunk, known for its sea captain's mansions, beaches and New England charm, became a sensation following reports that she had at least 150 clients, some of them prominent. So far, those who have been charged include a former mayor, a high school hockey coach, a minister, a lawyer and a firefighter.
Wright was originally charged with 106 counts. All the counts in the agreement were misdemeanors, including three counts relating to welfare and tax fraud that were reduced from felonies.
Under the agreement, prosecutors will seek restitution of $57,280.54. Prosecutors say Wright cooperated with them and spared the state an expensive trial.
Her partner, Mark Strong, 57, of Thomaston, was convicted of 13 counts related to promotion of prostitution and was sentenced to 20 days in jail. The married father of two was originally charged with 59 counts.
It's no surprise that Wright opted to avoid standing trial because evidence against her in Strong's trial was overwhelming, with jurors watching a video shown of her engaging in sex with a client who left $250, which she pocketed.
Prosecutors say paid sex happened in her studio, apartment and an office, where tenants complained about moaning and groaning.
There was plenty of electronic evidence because the two kept in touch via text, email and Skype, which Wright used to send a live video stream of sex acts to Strong. Videos also showed them speaking openly of ledgers, payments and scheduling.
Evidence unsealed after the trial indicated electronic exchanges in which Wright talked about the business goals: Nine clients a week, 45 clients a month. They also openly discussed scheduling, insurance payments, her outfits and clients' preferences. She even asked Strong for advice after encountering an unhappy client.
During Strong's trial, defense lawyer Daniel Lilley suggested that there was a relationship that went beyond business, and the electronic exchanges backed it up, with Wright saying she loved him and missed him.