More criminal charges are expected against the alleged operators of two separate prostitution rings in central Maine that authorities say they uncovered Thursday afternoon.
Frederick Horne Sr., 46, and his son, Frederick Horne Jr., 19, both of Sidney, were summoned Thursday on a charge of sex trafficking, a class D misdemeanor, after police searched their West River Road home.
In a separate case, Gretchen Patrick, 51, of Augusta, was charged with sex trafficking in connection with an escort service out of a Litchfield mobile home.
Lt. Aaron Hayden of the Maine State Police and Kennebec County District Attorney Maeghan Maloney said Friday that additional charges could be filed resulting from the investigation. Evidence for drug-related charges were found at both locations, according to Hayden. Hayden said there’s evidence for a felony drug charge at the Hornes’ property and that the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency is still investigating.
“We want to be sure we’re looking at all the information before we decide on final charges,” Maloney said Friday. “We could have asked the court for arrest warrants based on what we had up until today, but now that we have the information from the search warrant that gives us the ability to zero in on what the correct charges are. We have more evidence now.”
Maloney said it is possible charges of engaging a prostitute could be filed against clients of both locations based on seized ledgers and interviews with women.
In addition to sex trafficking and drug charges, there could also be financial charges filed against those involved, according to state police.
“We know some of the people involved receive state benefits and there is some under-reporting of income,” Hayden said. “We’re going to look at all of that.”
The nearly two-year-long investigation into the prostitution operations began when Maine State Police and the Augusta Police Department received several complaints, according to Hayden.
“We want to make sure we are accurately investigating to the fullest extent,” he said. “The quick sting is not what we’re going for. We want to make sure these women were protected in some sort of fashion and help them get some advocacy.”
â€˜I’M NOT ZUMBA’
Meanwhile, standing outside the 2874 West River Road house Friday morning, Horne Sr. said in an interview what he was doing wasn’t wrong and denied that any of the women at the residence were there against their will.
“These girls are like my family,” Horne said, saying that 12 to 15 women stay at the house, but not all at the same time. “If I had people here against their will, you think I’d be as open about all this as I am? There’s nobody here against their will.”
At least a half-dozen women were at the house Thursday when police arrived to search it — all of whom were interviewed by police but not charged.
“It may be illegal but you know what, a place like here where it doesn’t bother anybody, for one thing, and morally, I have my faith too, and it may not be right, but it’s like anybody else — they have the right to walk by a church or to walk into it,” Horne said. “It’s the United States of America. It’s supposed to be a free countryâ€‹.”
He said the women working for him ranged in age from 20 to 48 years old, and said that several came from difficult upbringings.
Finding women with rough childhoods is common practice for sex traffickers, according to Destie Hohman Sprague, program director of the Maine Coalition Against Sexual Violence.
“The reality is the majority of victims of sex trafficking have really tough backgrounds and we find that traffickers prey on that,” she said Friday. “Victims come from such trauma and instability and this appears at first to be an opportunity for stability where they didn’t previously have any.” She said traffickers use that “as part of the coercion.”
“That’s what makes it hard for the victims to leave,” she added. “They don’t know what their other alternatives are.”
Hohman Sprague said Maine has seen a rise in call volume at the National Human Trafficking Resource Hotline, a phone line for everything from crisis to general information. Hohman Sprague credited some of the rise in sex trafficking in the state and its profitability.
“You can sell a person’s body multiple times,” she said.
Horne’s Sidney residence has been advertised as the site of the Adam & Eve escort service, which in ads has described providing adult entertainment and “in/out calls.” Authorities have also said that Patrick operated Sarah’s Place, which has also advertised adult entertainment.
Horne said Friday that no client list was kept, and said in most cases he didn’t know clients’ names.
“I don’t keep track of names. I’m not Zumba,” Horne said, referring to the much-publicized prostitution ring in Kennebunk that was based in a Zumba studio and involved detailed client logs and surveillance.
Waterville police dealt with Frederick Horne Sr. back in 2005 and early 2006 when Horne’s business, Gentleman’s Choice, was on College Avenue in that city and then moved to 90 Main St. downtown.
Billed as an exotic rubdown parlor, Gentleman’s Choice was on the second floor above what was then CVS pharmacy and now houses Northern Mattress & Furniture, in the heart of downtown. Police were getting a lot of complaints from downtown business people who said Gentleman’s Choice did not fit in with the image downtown officials were trying to portray.
At one point in 2005, 16 women worked at Gentleman’s Choice. Horne Sr., then 38, said the women rented rooms from him to do rubdowns, dancing and lap dances, but he said that no prostitution took place. He said the women paid him a percentage of the money they earned.
On Oct. 6, 2005, police arrested a woman who worked at Gentleman’s Choice after she took an “out call” from an undercover police officer, went to a local hotel with a driver and negotiated a sex act for money, police said at the time.
Horne Sr. said at the time that he had no idea she was engaging in prostitution and had he known, he would have fired her. The woman pleaded guilty later in 2005 in Waterville District Court to a charge of engaging in prostitution.
In an effort to crack down on Gentleman’s Choice, Waterville police late in January 2006 parked a cruiser with a camcorder mounted on the dashboard outside the business to record people entering and leaving.
Police Chief John Morris, who now is commissioner of the state Department of Public Safety, said at the time that police were trying to identify those patronizing the business in case they were needed as witnesses in criminal prosecutions.
Waterville police Chief Joseph Massey, who was deputy chief at the time, said Friday police received complaints and information that prostitution may have been occurring at Gentleman’s Choice and that’s when police put the camcorder outside the business to monitor clientele traffic.
“We even approached people leaving the building and asked them if they wanted to talk,” Massey recalled Friday. “Of course we didn’t get anyone who was willing to speak to us.”
He said that ultimately the people renting rooms from Horne Sr. left and the business closed on Main Street.
“It never resulted in any charges but I think the visibility of the car and police approaching people going in and out of the building probably made them decide it was best to take the business someplace else,” Massey said.
At the time, Horne Sr. said he got into the business because his ex-wife was a dancer. A Maine native, he grew up in Meriden, Conn., and then returned to Maine and graduated from Gardiner High School in 1985, he said at the time.
Massey said the Waterville Police Department was not involved in the latest investigation of Horne Sr.
Amy Calder — 861-9247