Feds say NYC strippers drug rich men

NEW YORK (AP) — A crew of New York City strippers scammed wealthy men by spiking their drinks with illegal synthetic drugs, then driving them to strip clubs that ran up tens of thousands of dollars on their credit cards while they were too wasted to stop it, authorities said Wednesday.

A banker and a real estate attorney were among four victims who lost at least $200,000. None was identified by name in court papers.

Drug Enforcement Administration and New York Police Department investigators arrested four women — all described as professional strippers — earlier this week on charges including grand larceny, assault and forgery, according to papers provided to The Associated Press.

One of the women was expected to appear in state court in Manhattan later Wednesday following appearances Tuesday by the other three, including suspected ringleader Samantha Barbash.

Barbash’s attorney, Stephen Murphy, said Wednesday that his client denies the charges. He declined to comment further.

A strip club manager also was facing potential charges.

The roundup followed an undercover investigation that found that the women joined in a scheme to rip off the men by drugging them with the stimulant methylone, commonly known as “molly,” or other drugs after arranging to meet them at upscale bars in New York and Long Island, authorities said. The impaired victims were driven to Scores in Manhattan and the RoadHouse in Queens, where they were charged for private rooms, expensive meals, drinks and other services, they said.

The clubs paid the women for the visits, but the establishments were not facing criminal charges, authorities said.

The men reported waking up in their cars or in hotel rooms with little or no memory of the encounters. Those who tried to dispute the strip club bills received texts from the strippers threatening to go public with their transgressions, authorities said.

Last month, Scores sued a cardiologist, saying he owed the club $135,303 for unpaid services. According to the lawsuit, the doctor disputed the charges by saying “he was drugged by plaintiff’s employees and thus did not authorize the charges” – a claim the club says is contradicted by security video showing him freely showing up there on four separate occasions.

There was no immediate response to phone messages left Wednesday at Scores and the RoadHouse.

Army’s top sex assault prosecutor suspended after assault allegation

WASHINGTON — The top Army prosecutor for sexual assault cases has been suspended after a lawyer who worked for him recently reported he’d groped her and tried to kiss her at a sexual-assault legal conference more than two years ago.

Two separate sources with knowledge of the situation told Stars and Stripes that the Army is investigating the allegations levied against Lt. Col. Joseph “Jay” Morse, who supervised the Army’s nearly two dozen special victim prosecutors — who are in charge of prosecuting sexual assault, domestic abuse and crimes against children.

Attempts to reach Morse via phone and email for comment have thus far been unsuccessful.

Morse was removed from his job when the allegations came to light, one source said. To date, no charges have been filed in the case.

The suspension comes at a time the military is dealing with rising reports of sexual assault.

Morse, chief of the Trial Counsel Assistance Program at Fort Belvoir, Va., was responsible for Army prosecutorial training and assistance worldwide. He also was lead prosecutor in the case against Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, who pleaded guilty to the mass murder of 16 Afghan civilians in 2012.

Sources told Stars and Stripes that the Army lawyer alleged that Morse attempted to kiss and grope her against her will. The alleged assault reportedly took place in a hotel room at a 2011 sexual assault legal conference attended by special victims prosecutors in Alexandria, Va., before he was appointed as chief of the Trial Counsel Assistance Program.

The lawyer reported the incident in mid-February, and Morse was suspended shortly thereafter, according to one source.

An Army official who was not authorized to speak publicly about the matter confirmed an investigation was underway.

“We can confirm that this matter is currently under investigation and that the individual in question has been suspended from duties pending the outcome of the investigation,” the official said. “Given that this is still an open case, we are precluded from providing any additional information at this point.”

The suspension follows on the heels of a late February announcement by the Army it had suspended 588 troops and employees in “positions of trust” — including sexual assault response personnel — for suspected offenses including sexual crimes and alcohol abuse.

“This reads like an article from the Onion,” said Nancy Parrish, president of Protect Our Defenders, in an email. “Unfortunately there is absolutely nothing funny about it.

“If true, this case is yet another disheartening example of the hollow pledges of ‘zero tolerance’ we have heard for more than 20 years,” Parrish wrote. “When the military has those at top of the chain who are in charge of fighting sexual assault accused of sexual misconduct at a conference on sexual assault it should be clear to every level headed human being [that] the status quo must be changed.”

According to an Army biography, Morse was commissioned as an aviation officer in 1993 and became a judge advocate in 2001. Among his assignments, he has been a trial counsel, senior defense counsel and staff judge advocate. He received his law degree from the University of Arizona’s James E. Rogers College of Law, and is a graduate of Army’s Air Assault, Airborne and Ranger schools.

Last year, the former head of the Air Force Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office, Lt. Col. Jeffrey Krusinski, was acquitted in civilian court of assault and battery against a woman who said he had grabbed her buttocks.

Military brass, behaving badly

Files detail a spate of misconduct dogging armed forces

Brig. Gen. Bryan T. Roberts [Pictured above] publicly warned his troops at Fort Jackson, S.C., last spring that he and the Army had “zero tolerance for sexual harassment and sexual assault.” Here’s what the Army didn’t tell the soldiers: At the time, Roberts himself was under investigation by the military over allegations that he physically assaulted one of his mistresses on multiple occasions.

Martin P. Schweitzer, a commander with the Army’s legendary 82nd Airborne Division, was respectful and polite when he met a female member of Congress to discuss matters at Fort Bragg, N.C. Afterward, however, he couldn’t resist tapping out e-mails to two other generals, describing the lawmaker, Rep. Renee L. Ellmers (R-N.C.), as “smoking hot” and jokingly referring to explicit sexual acts.

 Roberts, Schweitzer and Uhrich

David C. Uhrich, a one-star Air Force general, kept a vodka bottle in his desk at Joint Base Langley-Eustis and repeatedly drank on duty, so much so that another officer told investigators that “if he did not have his alcohol, the wheels would come off,” according to the findings of an Air Force probe. The married Uhrich later sought treatment for a drinking problem, but not before he was also investigated for allegedly having an affair, something prohibited under military law.

The embarrassing episodes are described in previously undisclosed files of military investigations into personal misconduct by U.S. generals and admirals. Along with about two dozen other cases obtained by The Washington Post under the Freedom of Information Act, the investigations add to a litany of revelations about misbehaving brass that have dogged the Pentagon over the past 15 months and tarnished the reputation of U.S. military leadership.

[Read excerpts of reports on Roberts, Schweitzer and Uhrich]

Since November 2012, when an adulterous affair felled David H. Petraeus, the CIA director and most renowned Army general of his generation, the armed forces have struggled to cope with tawdry disclosures about high-ranking commanders.

The Navy has been humbled by a spiraling sex-and-bribery scandal, as well as a gambling incident involving a three-star admiral who authorities say they caught using counterfeit chips at a riverfront casino. The Air Force relieved a nuclear commander after investigators said he went on a drinking binge in Moscow. The Army fired one general for allegedly groping a woman, forced another to retire after he accepted expensive gifts from a foreigner, and demoted its top commander in Africa after an investigation found he treated himself and his wife to a $750-a-night Caribbean hotel suite at taxpayer expense.

The subject is painfully sensitive inside the Pentagon, where many generals and admirals say they are appalled but reluctant to openly criticize their peers.

“It’s just offensive when you see people do some of the things we’ve seen. It’s just completely offensive,” said an Army brigadier general who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “As officers, we ought to be held to a higher standard. Some of this stuff you’re seeing with folks is just completely unacceptable.”

Martin L. Cook, a professor of military ethics at the Naval War College in Newport, R.I., said the recent eruption of misconduct is “frankly a puzzle to everybody.” One factor, he added, may be that as officers climb higher in the ranks they become insulated and fewer people are willing to challenge or question them.

In his ethics classes, Cook said, military leaders recognize “they’ve got a major trust problem with the American people. . . . They’re deeply ashamed of it. It’s horror. They say, ‘Oh, we can’t have that happening.’ ”

Frustration is rising all the way up the chain of command.

In late 2012, then-Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta ordered a review of ethical standards for senior military officers. Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, responded with a memo outlining several new training and evaluation programs for commanders and their staffs.

Since then, however, even more cases have come to light and consternation has continued to fester at the Pentagon.

On Dec. 12, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel issued an unpublicized directive to Dempsey and the military chiefs, asking for another ethics review, this time of how the military teaches “core values and ethical leadership” to its officers. A response is due Feb. 14. “The secretary takes seriously all lapses and failures in leadership,” said Rear Adm. John F. Kirby, Hagel’s spokesman.

At the very top, the commander in chief has taken notice.

“President Obama expects the nation’s senior military leaders to demonstrate the highest standards of ethical conduct,” Caitlin Hayden, a White House spokeswoman, said in an e-mail. “The President has conveyed to the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff that instances of senior general and flag officers not living up to these standards must be addressed effectively.”

The Defense Department and the armed services closely guard the results of their misconduct investigations involving generals and admirals. The Air Force stamps its reports “Sensitive Material” and “For Official Use Only” and affixes a warning: “Do Not Open Cover Without A Need To Know.”

The Washington Post filed Freedom of Information Act requests with the Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps for reports of inspector general investigations into senior official misconduct since Oct. 1, 2012. After a three-month review, which included an extra layer of checks from the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the services released 30 partially redacted reports. A large majority concerned generals in the Army and Air Force.

Some of the probes involve relatively minor infractions of military regulations or policy. But the most common transgressions are related to sexual or personal misbehavior. In seven of the cases, investigators determined that generals had affairs or engaged in “inappropriate” relationships.

The Uniform Code

While the public may have become accustomed to stories of philandering politicians or ethical breaches by corporate leaders, such behavior is still considered intolerable inside the military, especially for generals and admirals who are expected to set a sterling example.

The Uniform Code of Military Justice prohibits adultery or “improper” personal relationships, and officers can be prosecuted or disciplined for such offenses.

Just as significantly, however, military leaders are under intense scrutiny from Congress and the White House for how they respond to sexual assault or abuse in the ranks. Reports of such cases have escalated in recent years. Some lawmakers have tried to strip commanders of their authority to oversee those investigations, arguing that they lack legal training and are too often insensitive to the problem.

In the April 4 edition of the Fort Jackson Leader, a newspaper published for the South Carolina post where the Army conducts much of its basic training, Brig. Gen. Roberts let it be known where he stood on the issue.

“Team Jackson, let me be clear, the Army has zero tolerance for sexual harassment and sexual assault, and so do I,” Roberts wrote. “I view sexual harassment and assault as an enemy threat. . . . All of us have a shared role in ridding our ranks of this cancerous conduct.”

At the time, Roberts — the top commander at Fort Jackson — was under criminal investigation by the Army. Two months earlier, a woman filed a complaint alleging that she had been carrying on an affair with the married general for 18 months and that the relationship had turned violent on four occasions, according to an investigative report from the Army inspector general.

Most recently, the woman told investigators, the pair got into an argument in the general’s quarters after she inadvertently called his wife on her cellphone. The woman said she slapped the general; in turn, he “bit her lip,” and she suffered an eye injury. Although the woman said their sex was consensual, she added that she needed medical attention after two previous “physical altercations” with Roberts, according to the Army inspector general’s investigative report.

As Army investigators began making inquiries, they found a second woman, a subordinate civilian employee, who told them she, too, was involved in a consensual sexual relationship with Roberts.

Roberts’s phone records led investigators to a third woman, also a subordinate civilian employee. The records showed the two had called each other more than 900 times over six months, mostly at night or on weekends. That woman denied having a sexual relationship with Roberts, calling him a “boss and friend.” When investigators asked why the general called her so often on weekends and at odd hours, she replied that “it could be to ‘talk about motorcycles or work-related issues,’ ” according to the inspector general’s report.

In May, the Army announced that it had suspended Roberts for allegedly having a physical altercation with a mistress, but it gave no other details. In July, the Army announced that the general had been relieved of his command position at Fort Jackson.

In August, after a closed disciplinary hearing, the Army found Roberts guilty of assaulting the first mistress on one occasion and committing adultery with her over a nine-month period. He was fined $5,000 and issued a written reprimand but retained his rank as a one-star general.

Gary Myers, Roberts’s attorney, said that he presented a case for self-defense in response to the assault charge but that it was rejected by the Army.

“This, like many cases, is far more complex than the documents would suggest,” Myers said. The general, he added, “has expressed deep regret for the relationship with the woman and has accepted responsibility for that relationship.”

In addition to the discipline imposed on Roberts for adultery and assault, the Army inspector general concluded that he had engaged in “inappropriate relationships” with the other two women and improperly used government e-mail and phones to communicate with them.

His attorney declined to comment on those findings but said the general’s case “has absolutely nothing to do with sexual assault.”

The Army said Roberts remains on active duty and is assigned to the Pentagon as a special assistant to the Army’s vice chief of staff. The general will be “retiring soon,” Myers said.

Lewd e-mails

Last summer, Army prosecutors were combing through the e-mail accounts of Brig. Gen. Jeffrey A. Sinclair, a commander facing a court-martial on sexual assault, adultery and other charges , when they uncovered a raunchy exchange with two other generals.

The exchange started in March 2011, when Schweitzer, then a colonel and the deputy commander for operations for the 82nd Airborne Division, held a meeting with Ellmers, a newly elected House member whose district included Fort Bragg.

Schweitzer gave a pointed summary of the meeting in an e-mail to a superior, Maj. Gen. James Huggins, while copying Sinclair, then a fellow colonel and an 82nd Airborne commander.

“First — she is smoking hot,” Schweit­zer wrote. “Second — briefing went well . . . she was engaging . . . had done her homework. She wants us to know she stands with us and will work/push to get the Fort Bragg family resourced.”

That, and what came next, led prosecutors to turn over the e-mail chain to the Army inspector general for a full investigation.

“He sucks 🙂 still needs to confirm hotness,” Sinclair teased in a reply.

More than an hour later, Schweitzer responded with an apology for the delay, saying he had masturbated “3 times over the past 2 hours” after the meeting with the congresswoman.

In releasing its investigative report in response to The Post’s Freedom of Information Act request, the Army censored the most offensive e-mail in its entirety, citing personal privacy interests. It also redacted Ellmers’s name and all references to her position as a member of Congress.

The Post obtained an original, uncensored copy of the e-mails from another source.

In a statement released Friday, Ellmers called the e-mails “entirely inappropriate.” She said she was first told about them two weeks ago by Gen. John F. Campbell, the Army vice chief of staff, as officials were preparing to disclose the inspector general’s report to The Post.

“I am pleased with the corrective actions that are taking place and how they handled this very difficult situation,” Ellmers added.

Schweitzer, now a brigadier general who works at the Pentagon for the Joint Staff, did not respond to multiple requests for comment for this story.

Last summer, according to the report, he told Army investigators that his e-mails were “childish” and “truly stupid.” He also called himself “an honorable man,” adding: “I am not perfect. This horrible attempt at a joke was simply that, a horrible attempt at a joke.”

The Army inspector general concluded that Schweitzer had “failed to demonstrate exemplary conduct” and cited him for using his government e-mail account “for an unauthorized purpose.”

In response, the Army placed a “memorandum of concern” in Schweitzer’s personnel file. It is also holding his previously announced promotion to major general “in abeyance pending formal review,” according to Army spokesman George Wright.

Wright noted that inspector general probes are “administrative actions” and not criminal investigations. Speaking generally, he defended the level of discipline that the Army imposes in such cases, calling it “appropriate and commensurate with the level of the allegations.”

“It is serious, and it impacts these officers personally and professionally,” Wright said. “There never was any attempt to sweep anything under the rug.”

In the case of Uhrich, the married Air Force general who was reported for drinking vodka on duty and allegedly having an affair, several military officers and civilian employees who witnessed his behavior told investigators they were personally offended by it.

“It’s very unbecoming,” said an Air Force major, who like the other witnesses was not identified by name in the inspector general’s report. With “the stories that are coming out about General Officers and the things that they’re doing, I think it’s . . . not only bad timing but it’s very, uh, poor judgment.”

Added a male civilian employee: “Morally it’s wrong. I think legally it’s wrong. . . . I watch the news. Everybody watches the news. We see what happens to generals and to people who had this happen.”

A female civilian worker told investigators that she viewed Uhrich’s conduct as “messed up.” She added,“He is [supposed to be an] upstanding, high-ranking officer that represents the United States Air Force and that is uncalled for.”

The Air Force inspector general determined that Uhrich had engaged in an improper “romantic relationship” with the woman, a civilian who worked at a military base in Texas, and that he brought “discredit to himself” by repeatedly drinking on duty. An Air Force spokeswoman said he received “verbal counseling” as a result and remains on active duty.

Uhrich did not testify under oath or provide a statement to the Air Force inspector general. He declined to comment in response to a request placed through an Air Force spokeswoman.

Brazil’s child sex trade soars as 2014 World Cup nears

A tiny figure in minuscule white shorts and a pink strapless top leans against a metal fence outside a school in Fortaleza, the capital of Ceará state, north-east Brazil.

She has gloss-coated lips, and her yellow headband, holding back long hair, glows in the lamplight along Juscelino Kubitschek Avenue, which connects the city to the Castelão arena, one of the venues for the 2014 World Cup. A car pulls up. The girl climbs in.

This is a common scene around the stadium in Fortaleza, considered Brazil’s child prostitution capital and a magnet for sex tourism, according to local authorities.

Transvestites also work the dusty pavements of this newly renovated thoroughfare but young girls are in higher demand. “As soon as they hit the avenue they’re picked up,” says Antônia Lima Sousa, a state prosecutor who works on children‘s rights in Fortaleza. “It’s really a matter of minutes. You’ll find them around town during the day too.”

Despite more than a decade of government pledges to eradicate child prostitution, the number of child sex workers in Brazil stood at about half a million in 2012, according to the National Forum for the Prevention of Child Labor, a non-governmental organisation.

That’s a fivefold increase since 2001, when 100,000 children worked in the sex trade, according to estimates by Unicef, the UN children’s charity.

And with the World Cup approaching in June, officials and campaigners fear an explosion in child prostitution as sex workers migrate to big cities from interior states and pimps recruit more young people to meet increased demand from local and foreign football fans.

“We’re worried sexual exploitation will increase in the host cities and around them,” says Joseleno Vieira dos Santos, who co-ordinates a national programme to fight the sexual exploitation of children at Brazil’s Human Rights Secretariat. “We’re trying to co-ordinate efforts as much as we can with state and city governments to understand the scope of the problem.”

But the authorities have a battle on their hands as sex workers prepare to cash in on a bumper trade.

The Minas Gerais State Association of Prostitutes, which represents sex workers in one of Brazil’s largest states, is even offering free English lessons to prostitutes in the capital Belo Horizonte, another World Cup host city.

“There’ll be a lot more people circulating in this area during the games for sure and the city will be full of tourists,” says Giovana, 19, a transvestite working a corner near Castelão stadium. “I know there’ll be more work for everybody – women, girls, everybody.”

Big bucks

The tournament is expected to attract 600,000 foreign visitors to Brazil who will spend an estimated 25bn reals (£6.5bn) while travelling around the country, the Brazilian tourism board, Embratur, says.

The championship could inject 113bn reals into the economy by 2014, Fifa has said, citing an Ernst & Young report.

Brazil’s government will have spent 33bn reals on stadiums, transport and other infrastructure by the time the tournament kicks off, as well as £6m on advertising. In contrast, very little is being spent on fighting the sexual exploitation of minors, campaigners say.

The Human Rights Secretariat has set aside 8m reals for host cities to set up projects to fight child prostitution, but not all cities have programmes in place to absorb the funds, Santos says.

His department is finishing a review of child prostitution in key locations and will then decide what action to take. But any programmes will scratch only the surface.

“We realise we’re only touching the tip of the iceberg with these actions for the World Cup, but we hope to build capacity and implement longer-lasting programmes in the future,” Santos says.

Beyond the Human Rights Secretariat, the government could not provide accurate data on total spending to fight child prostitution but campaigners say some schemes have been shut down. They argue that the government is not doing enough to address the problem.

“This subject isn’t really part of the government’s agenda and we don’t see a willingness to combine efforts or increase resources to address the sexual exploitation of children,” says Denise Cesario, executive manager of Fundação Abrinq, a local partner of Save the Children International.

The lure of Fortaleza

brsaSex tourism occurs across Brazil but Fortaleza – one of the north-east’s top tourist destinations with white sandy beaches and about 300 days of sunshine – is the industry’s main hub.

A culture of machismo, combined with extreme poverty and drug use, has created the perfect environment for sexual exploitation, say social workers like Cecília dos Santos Góis, who works for Cedeca, a children’s rights charity.

“Women in the north-east have traditionally been treated as second-class citizens, as objects even,” she says. “Many fathers see their young daughters as a source of income and that is a cultural attitude that’s hard to change.”

More phone calls are made from Fortaleza to a nationwide toll-free number to report child sexual exploitation than from any other Brazilian city on a per capita basis, experts say.

Many of Fortaleza’s young sex workers see prostitution as a way of escaping their circumstances. But for 16-year-old Jessica, a tall brunette, her escape plan has landed her in trouble.

She began sex work with local clients, earning about $18 (£11) a night, before graduating to bigger nightclubs and groups of foreign tourists for about $90 a night.

Police arrested her in September in a raid on a club on Iracema beach, a crowded neighbourhood packed with lively restaurants, hotels and bars.

They took her to one of four shelters for underage prostitutes, a discreet two-storey house in a lower-class neighbourhood, accessible only through a narrow iron gate watched around the clock by security guards. She is waiting for a judge to decide whether she can return home to her mother.

Waiting for a prince

Sitting in the small room she shares with three younger girls, Jessica says one of her regular clients, a Spaniard, has promised to take her to Europe. “I told him I was 18 and I was getting my passport,” she says, tucking a rainbow-coloured tank top into green and yellow tropical-print trousers. “I paid 500 reals for a fake ID and was saving money to buy a fake passport. But in the end I was afraid to go.”

Leonora Albuquerque, one of the shelter’s co-ordinators, says Jessica’s story is typical. “Like so many girls who get into this life, Jessica has fantasies that she will find her prince charming – a foreign client who will fall in love with her – and he’ll take her to Europe and buy her fancy clothes, perfume, jewels,” she says.

Pimps and clients are rarely punished and when prosecutors do manage to build a case against them, survivors often change their testimonies and the cases are thrown out, says Francisco Carlos Pereira de Andrade, a criminal prosecutor who specialises in child exploitation.

Of 2,000 cases before his department, which handles sexual violence against children, only about 20 involve child prostitution.

The face of sex tourism in Fortaleza is also changing, making it more difficult to catch criminals, Sousa says.

Instead of working the streets, organised rings of pimps, hotel managers and taxi drivers recruit young girls. Foreign clients order the underage prostitutes before they arrive in Fortaleza and they are delivered directly to their hotels, Sousa adds.

Girls on the menu

Friday night at Iracema beach and a small group of blond German men are drinking beer at pavement tables, watched closely by a bouncer.

Six adult sex workers stand nearby, some sitting with them, swishing their hair from side to side. But the tourists have something else on their mind.

“They’re waiting for a cue to let them know the girls they ordered are ready,” says social worker Góis, on one of her routine surveillance rounds of child prostitution hubs. “The bar is involved. The taxi drivers that wait on the corner are probably involved too. And some hotels nearby are part of this network.”

While international sex tourism is prominent in Fortaleza, it represents only a third of all reported child prostitution cases. Prostitutes with Brazilian clients, from Ceará or surrounding states, are far more common, prosecutors say.

That was the case for Vanessa, who was 13 when police picked her up in October, not far from Castelão stadium.

She left her home in a poor neighbourhood when she was 10, after her stepfather started to beat her, she says. She has lived mostly on the streets, going to shelters now and then and spending nights with clients, some of whom she calls friends.

Her chubby cheeks, perfectly aligned white teeth and sparkling eyes make it hard to believe she is undergoing treatment for crack cocaine abuse. “I want to study; I really like maths. But sometimes I just want to disappear and go and live on Mars with the astronauts,” she laughs.

Last month, Vanessa broke into the maintenance room at the shelter, took a ladder and scaled the 2.5-metre wall surrounding the building, according to Albuquerque, who works at the shelter. She convinced two other girls, aged 12 and 13, to go back with her to the Castelão stadium area. It was the fourth time she had escaped in less than six months.

“It’s very hard to convince these girls to lead normal lives,” Albuquerque adds. “Most of them think abuse and selling their bodies is just a fact of life.”

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