Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Fraternity "Entertainment" includes Prostitutes

Toledo prostitution ring tied to fraternity

Threads of a national initiative to stop the underage sex trade have once again led to Toledo.
This time, they're also tied to an international African-American fraternity that last year celebrated its 100th anniversary during a glitzy, star-studded convention in Washington.

During the four-day Alpha Phi Alpha convention, prosecutors said, North Toledoan Kevin Murphy provided several prostitutes through an escort service he ran under the names "Janelle's Sophisticated Ladies" and "Erotic Angels."

Among those prostitutes: a barely 16-year-old Toledo girl.

She and the adult prostitutes would "dance and strip" for convention-goers, Assistant U.S. Attorney David Bauer told federal Judge David Katz yesterday. "Mr. Murphy … made members of this fraternity aware that women were available for other services - in other words, prostitution services," Mr. Bauer said.

Murphy, 48, of 3394 Cherry St., yesterday pleaded guilty to five felony charges in U.S. District Court in Toledo. He faces at least five years in prison because of a mandatory sentence for compelling underage prostitution.

Investigators said a fraternity contact would offer Murphy information about conventions, and Murphy would transport his prostitutes. Mr. Bauer did not name the fraternity contact, but he did say it did not appear to be a high-level decision to bring in prostitutes.

"There is no evidence that organizers or national officers had any knowledge this was going on," he said.

Murphy offered prostitutes at several fraternity conventions last year, including meetings in Peoria, Ill., and Dearborn, Mich., Mr. Bauer said.

Investigators learned of the arrangement during their "Innocence Lost" investigations, a national initiative to stop the underage sex trade. Investigators made several prostitution-related arrests last July 25 at the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel during the national Alpha Phi Alpha convention, Mr. Bauer said in court. According to news reports at the time, more than 5,000 people attended, including Congressional representatives, actor Lou Gossett, Jr., and Grammy Award-winner Lionel Richie.

William Lyle, director of communications for the fraternity's national office, told The Blade he was not aware of the arrests last year in Washington and does not know Murphy.

Joe Conley, who works in the University of Toledo's legal affairs department and is president of the UT's Alpha Phi Alpha alumni chapter, also said he did not know Murphy or of the arrests. "This is the first I've heard of it, and it's really troubling," Mr. Conley said.

A sentencing hearing has not been scheduled.