14 nabbed for prostitution under new R.I. law — ‘Pat Patriot’ among them

SCITUATE — The state police have arrested six women and eight men under the state’s new prostitution law, which bans indoor solicitation. The arrests followed four undercover operations in the last two months at hotels in Providence, Warwick and the Johnston area, and targeted people placing or responding to ads on craigslist.com or newspapers, state police said at a news conference Friday.

A man who plays “Pat Patriot,” the mascot for the New England Patriots, Robert Sormanti, 47, of Warwick, is among those charged.

A query to Patriots spokesman Stacey James about Sormanti’s status with the team brought this response: “The Patriot mascot costume is worn by multiple people, all are held responsible for their actions. The individual in question has been suspended.” He added, “The mascot responsibilities will continue to be fulfilled by others.”

Sormanti could not be reached for comment.

In two of the four operations, an undercover male detective posed as a customer who agreed to meet women in hotels in Providence and Warwick to engage in sex for money, said Capt. David Neill, department spokesman. Those took place on Nov. 18 and Nov. 24.

In the two separate stings on Dec. 9 and Dec. 10, a female state police detective posed as a prostitute and attracted eight men to “hotels in the Johnston area” through phone conversations that were taped. State police posted an advertisement on the adult section of craigslist.com, which brought numerous calls from males seeking sexual contact for a fee, Neill said. “Arrangements were made to meet those males in motels in the area of Johnston and Scituate.” The men were arrested inside the hotel or motel rooms, once a fee for a sexual act was offered.

“The arrests of these individuals validates the fact that the industry for sex for hire is pervasive here in Rhode Island as a result of the [previous] loophole in the law,” said Col. Brendan P. Doherty, superintendent of the state police.

“This case also demonstrates that the Rhode Island State Police take this violation seriously. The potential dangers associated with strangers meeting in a clandestine setting, not knowing each other’s identity or background, is in itself is dangerous. It’s morally wrong, and now, it’s illegal.”

Doherty called some of the taped conversations associated with the case “disturbing in nature, reprehensible and despicable,” and a “measure of the lack of respect and dignity shown to someone engaged in this trade.”

Doherty declined comment on whether the state police are looking at a possible trafficking operation. “We’ve interviewed the women and we’re not going to comment on any of their statements,” he said. He referred to the women arrested as “freelancers,” rather than part of an escort service.

Doherty said the hotels and motels used in the investigation had no knowledge of the undercover operations.

He also thanked the General Assembly for passing legislation that gave the state police the tools to fight prostitution, and said this wouldn’t be his department’s last initiative.

In Rhode Island, prostitutes have been able to operate legally for years as long as they did so indoors because of a nearly 30-year-old loophole in the state’s prostitution law. The loophole, the police said, had stymied efforts to investigate and prosecute sex-trafficking cases.

But that changed last month when Governor Carcieri signed legislation, overwhelmingly approved by the General Assembly in October, to make prostitution a crime, even if it occurs behind closed doors.

Prostitutes who work indoors now face the same criminal misdemeanor charges as prostitutes who work the street: for first offenders, up to six months in prison and a fine of up to $1,000, or both. The law, however, empowers judges to erase the criminal convictions of first offenders. Customers or “johns” face the same penalties as prostitutes, but without the possibility of getting their criminal records expunged.

The state police identified five of the six women arrested and facing prostitution charges. One was 17 and her name was not released; however, she had an outstanding arrest warrant and was turned over to the Rhode Island Training School. The others are: Katelynne Pegg, 18, of 8 Albro Ave., Taunton; Charlenne Lavasseur, 48, of 11 Gail Ave., Cranston; Christine Aurelio, 29, of 464 Buchanan St., Pawtucket; Nicole Moyniham, 22, of 187 Cottage St., Pawtucket; and Jessica A. Neves, 22, of 55 Wannisett Ave., East Providence.

Besides Sormanti, of 31 Todd St., Warwick, the seven other men charged with procurement of sexual conduct for a fee are: Antonio F. Lima, 59, of 39 Willard Ave., Seekonk; Ahmed Farhane, 33, of 136 George St., Apt. 7, Pawtucket; Steven Jobe, 54, of 152 Bayard St., Providence; Robert C. McVey, 56, of 140 Kettle Pond Drive, South Kingstown; Kenneth Stiles, 47, of 29 Judge St., Fall River; William Lee, 43, of 5 Cecile St., Lincoln; and Daniel Fleming, 38, of 62 Lawn Ave., Warwick. A man identifying himself as Fleming called The Journal on Friday afternoon and said he was not at the hotel to solicit sex.

All of the suspects were arraigned by a bail commissioner and were released on personal recognizance.

source: http://www.projo.com/news/content/PROSTITUTION_ARRESTS_12-12-09_NPGP2A2_v22.398b603.html

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Published in: on December 12, 2009 at 9:49 am  Leave a Comment  
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