Portland ME — The Zumba prostitution scandal has resulted in a jail term for Mark Strong, the business manager for fitness instructor Alexis Wright who allegedly ran a sex-for-hire ring from her Kennebunk Zumba studio.
Strong, an insurance agent who was convicted in early March of 12 counts of promoting prostitution and one count of conspiracy after a three week trial, received a 20-day jail sentence to be served immediately.
York County prosecutors sought a one-year jail term for his part in the Zumba sex scandal but Judge Nancy Mills imposed a lighter sentence in part because Strong was a first-time offender who had strong ties to the community. Defense lawyers unsuccessfully argued for a 14-day sentence and bail and indicated they plan to appeal. According to Strong’s lawyer Dan Lilley, “The state wanted Moby Dick but got fish bait. This is relatively minor case that has become, or did become, a media event. The simple fact is that the media … has already punished Mark Strong.”
Prosecutors claimed that Strong had shown no contrition and blamed his legal problems on law enforcement authorities. “Based on his sophisticated crime, his calculation in committing these crimes, his utter lack of remorse, the court should impose a sentence that gives fair warning that this type of criminal enterprise is not tolerated in Maine,” the prosecutors maintained prior to the sentencing.
In addition to managing the day-to-day business operations of the Zumba dance studio, prosecutors claimed that via Skype, Strong allegedly watched the hanky panky in the Zumba studio captured on hidden video cameras on his computer at his home about 100 miles away in Thomaston, Maine. He also reportedly ran the license plates of the Johns through the Maine Bureau of Motor Vehicles database with his access as a licensed private investigator. This suggests that he and Wright may have been possibly planning something along the lines of blackmail.
Both Strong and his wife Julie spoke at yesterday’s sentencing hearing. In an emotional statement, Mrs. Strong among other things asked the judge to go easy on her husband because he came out of this experience as a changed man. Strong himself said in part:
“I do apologize for each of my selfish actions and the harm that I have caused many. Most importantly I want to apologize to my wife, my two sons and my entire family because I’ve caused so much hurt in so many ways, emotionally, physically and financially.’
Alexis Wright, who pleaded not guilty to criminal charges against her, is scheduled to go on trial in May, although plea bargain negotiations are underway with the prosecution. She is charged with 106 different counts including prostitution, privacy violations, tax offenses and welfare fraud.
Aided by Strong, the suspected exercise madam reportedly kept “meticulous” records of the sexual encounters, many of which were videotaped, and which indicate the business made $150,000 over 18 months. Police investigations of the Zumba fitness studio began after locals reported cars coming and going to and from the studio and office at all house of the day and night, and men going in for “a half-hour or hour at a time,” according to the original police affidavit.
Under the circumstances, do you think that Mark Strong got away with a slap on the wrist for his “intimate” involvement in the Zumba studio prostitution scandal?