BY JORGE MILIAN AND OLIVIA HITCHCOCK
PALM BEACH POST/TNS
WEST PALM BEACH – Calling human trafficking in Palm Beach County “evil in our midst,” State Attorney Dave Aronberg announced Monday that 25 men accused of paying for sex acts at a Jupiter day spa have been formally charged with soliciting a prostitute.
Among them is New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, the part-time Palm Beach resident who police said paid women twice for sex on consecutive days last month at the Orchids of Asia Day Spa.
One visit took place on the morning of Jan. 20, shortly before Kraft flew to Kansas City to see his team defeat the Chiefs that night in the AFC Championship game. Kraft, 77, faces two counts of soliciting a prostitute, a first-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail.
Also among them was John Havens, the former chief operations officer for Citigroup. Havens allegedly paid for a sex act Jan. 22, according to police records.
The arrests are among more than 60 in a multi-agency crackdown on day spas where authorities allege women who came to the United States from China for what they thought were legitimate jobs in the spas were forced to perform sex acts on clients.
They also say the women were largely confined to the spas, eating and sleeping there and often having to surrender their passports.
To date, no one arrested as part of the investigation faces a charge of human trafficking, defined as the soliciting, recruiting or harboring of another person to exploit him or her for labor, domestic servitude or sexual exploitation, although Aronberg said at a news conference Monday on the steps of the Palm Beach County Courthouse that that situation could change.
“Human trafficking is the business of stealing someone’s freedom for profit,” said Aronberg, whose office for two years has led a task force that targets human trafficking. “It can happen anywhere, including the peaceful community of Jupiter, Florida.”
Jupiter police began investigating Orchids of Asia, in the Jupiter Square Shopping Center at East Indiantown Road and U.S. 1, after being tipped by Martin County investigators to reports of illegal activity there.
The spa’s owner and manager were arrested last month on prostitution charges. Authorities believe the business is connected to a human trafficking ring involving Chinese nationals.
The arrests by Jupiter police have drawn nationwide attention because of the alleged involvement of Kraft, considered one of the most powerful owners in the NFL and a close friend of President Donald Trump. A spokesperson for Kraft categorically denied “that Mr. Kraft engaged in any illegal activity.”
Caught on camera
According to Jupiter police, Kraft paid visits to the spa Jan. 19 and 20, arriving in a chauffeured-driven Bentley.
On Jan. 20, Kraft is captured on surveillance camera taking his clothes off and getting hugged by a woman before the sex act takes place, the report says. Kraft then allegedly gives the woman a $100 bill and one other unidentifiable bill and leaves. The transaction took about 10 minutes, police said.
The police report states that Kraft also visited the spa on Jan. 19 at about 4:45 p.m. On that occasion, Kraft allegedly paid two women an unknown sum for a sex act. That encounter was also caught on surveillance video.
Writ of ‘capias’
After Kraft left the spa Jan. 19, his Bentley was pulled over by police for an unknown traffic violation. The report states Kraft was identified through his Massachusetts drivers’ license.
Aronberg said at his news conference Monday that defendants who, like Kraft, live out of state, will be issued a writ of “capias” and will have to either surrender or have an attorney contact law enforcement to satisfy the warrant.
Local defendants will have a summons mailed to them.
Aronberg did not speak specifically about Kraft or any of the other 24 men arrested.
“These cases aren’t about any one defendant or any group of defendants,” Aronberg said. “The larger picture which we must all confront is the cold reality that many prostitutes in cases like this are themselves victims.”
Aronberg said first-time offenders “are very unlikely to get any significant jail time.” No other arrests are expected in the Jupiter case, Aronberg said.
The National Football League on Monday released its second statement regarding Kraft, saying it was “seeking a full understanding of the facts” before considering any disciplinary action.
“Our Personal Conduct Police applies equally to everyone in the NFL,” the statement read. “We will handle this allegation in the same way we would handle any issue under the Policy.
The monthslong investigation included surveying who came and went from the spa, coordinating with a Florida Department of Health inspector and obtaining a “sneak-and-peak” warrant to put surveillance cameras in the massage rooms.
The multicounty investigation has led to the arrests of four women, including the owner and manager of Orchids of Asia.
Hundreds of men from Vero Beach south to Jupiter have been named as customers at the illegal businesses, four of which are in Martin County.