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'I'm free from this,' Zumba teacher says at prostitution sentencing

May 31, 2013|By Michael Muskal

A Zumba dance instructor was sentenced to 10 months in jail on Friday, ending the case of sex, lies and videotape in a prostitution scandal that rocked a picturesque seaside town in Maine.

Alexis Wright, 30, was sentenced under a plea agreement to 20 counts including prostitution, conspiracy, tax evasion and theft by deception. She was accused of selling sex at her fitness studio, apartment and an office, earning more than $150,000 over 18 months and attracting at least 150 clients, including the Kennebunk, Maine, mayor and a high school hockey coach.

“It's my intention to stand up for what is right,” Wright said at her sentencing. 

“When I'm out, I'm going to pursue helping people fight through situations that are similar to mine,” she said, according to the Associated Press. “I'm optimistic that something good will come out of this.”

Kennebunk, with a population of about 11,000 people, is a well-known seaside resort, just up the road from the town of Kennebunkport where the Bush family has an estate.

When police first raided Wright’s fitness studio in February of 2012 and the details of the prostitution became public, the town was shocked to its New England roots, which go back to 1621.

On Friday, Wright said the police raid had liberated her by removing a burden of guilt.

“In my eyes I'm free. I'm free from this. And I have an incredible amount of strength that I knew was in me somewhere. Now that I have the strength, I want to encourage others to come forward. I want them to know that there's at least one person out there who'll believe their story, no matter how crazy it seems,” she told Superior Court Judge Nancy Mills, sitting in Alfred, Maine.

“Based on what you have to say and what I know about you from your attorney, I know that you will succeed when you're released and that you will prevail. I wish you success,” said Mills, according to media reports.

Wright’s attorney, Sarah Churchill, told the judge that her client had a difficult childhood, witnessed domestic violence and suffered sexual abuse. Wright met Mark Strong, who became her eventual business partner and who Churchill charged manipulated the woman.

Strong, 57, of Thomaston, Maine, was convicted of 13 counts related to promotion of prostitution and was sentenced to 20 days in jail in March.

Prosecutors argued that Wright was a willing participant and took an active role in the prostitution business the pair set up.

The two kept in touch via text message, email and Skype, which Wright was accused of using to send a live video stream of sex acts to Strong. Videos also showed them speaking openly of ledgers, payments and scheduling.

In addition to taking money for sex, Wright was also charged with fraudulently collecting more than $40,000 in public assistance. Under the agreement, prosecutors said they would seek restitution of $57,280.54.

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