|In this Friday, March 9, 2007, file photo, Deborah Palfrey of Vallejo, Calif., reads a statement outside federal court in Washington after her arraignment on federal racketeering charges. A federal judge ruled Friday, March 16, 2007, that the former escort service owner cannot sell phone records and other company records. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)|
D.C. madam case leads to speculation
McLEAN, Va. --High-priced call girls always seem to have their little black books. Deborah Jeane Palfrey, accused of running an illegal escort service in the nation's capital, has 46 pounds of phone records.
And her offer -- or threat -- to turn them over to the media has some in Washington playing a guessing game as to whether any Beltway movers and shakers are on her list of up to 15,000 client phone numbers.
The 50-year-old alleged D.C. Madam was indicted earlier this month by a federal grand jury on charges of running a high-class call girl ring in the Washington area from her home in Vallejo, Calif. She has denied the escort service engaged in prostitution.
In court records, prosecutors estimate that her business, Pamela Martin and Associates, generated more than $2 million in revenue over 13 years, with more than 130 women employed at various times to serve thousands of clients at $200 to $300 a session.
Her home was raided months ago, but the case attracted little interest until earlier this month, when Palfrey announced that to raise money for her defense, she intended to sell her phone records to any news outlet willing to pay.
In an announcement that was sure to make her clients sweat, Palfrey said outside the federal courthouse last week: "The clientele was upscale and came from the more refined walks of life here in the nation's capital."
Though she said she received multiple bids, Palfrey has since given the list for free to a news organization with a sterling reputation, according to her lawyer, Montgomery Blair Sibley. He has refused to identify the news organization.
Sibley said he hopes the news organization will ultimately help the defense by uncovering the names of customers who can testify that Palfrey's escorts did not engage in prostitution.
Prosecutors say the move to publicize the list is a thinly veiled attempt to intimidate and harass potential witnesses if the government presses ahead with the case. They asked for and received a restraining order from a judge last Friday that bars disclosure of the records.
Sibley said that Palfrey won't be happy about it if any high-profile clients are outed, but she has her back against the wall.
"It's only now, when she has an ankle bracelet on and she doesn't have any alternative, that she contemplated" disclosure of her clients, Sibley said, referring to the conditions imposed on her while she remains free awaiting trial.
With absolutely no hard facts to go on, bloggers and others are enjoying speculating as to whether any bold-faced names are on the client list and whether this will be the East Coast's version of the Heidi Fleiss Hollywood Madam scandal.
But in an online chat with readers last week,
"We hear `Washington madam' and immediately think, `Her clients are all congressmen and Cabinet secretaries!' But come on, you know it's all going to be a bunch of developers' sons and patent lawyers and CEOs of tech companies you've never heard of," Argetsinger wrote.
So far, Palfrey has not disclosed any of her high-profile clients, but asked to take a deposition from former Clinton White House adviser Dick Morris. In 1996, Morris resigned after a tabloid revealed details of his relationship with a Washington call girl. No proof has been offered that the call girl worked for Palfrey.
Palfrey described her business to reporters outside court as a "legal, high-end erotic fantasy service." In breezy newsletters she sent to her escorts, though, she offered instructions on how to avoid police entrapment.
She also related a story about a newly hired escort who "thought she could go there, collect the $200 and just talk ... her mere presence being justification enough here for the big bucks!!! WRONG!!!"
Palfrey also made it clear that keeping lists of your clients is a big no-no.
"No record is a good record!!! Therefore, all information regarding a client/appointment is to be destroyed (burned, shredded) within four hours," she wrote in a 2000 newsletter.
In another newsletter, she berated an unidentified escort for getting caught by police in Alexandria with a client list. "The bimbo kept records (apparently)," Palfrey wrote, according to court records.
Associated Press writers Kim Curtis in San Francisco and Allison Hoffman in San Diego contributed to this report.
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