By Olivia Hitchcock
The Palm Beach Post
JUPITER, Fla. – New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft is one of 25 people charged with soliciting prostitutes as part of a series of human trafficking and prostitution arrests in Palm Beach County and the Treasure Coast, Jupiter Police Chief Daniel Kerr said Friday.
The crackdown was announced Tuesday. Thus far, authorities have arrested people in Palm Beach, Martin and Indian River counties.
The Palm Beach County State Attorney’s Office will decide whether to proceed with the cases, including that of Kraft, a Massachusetts resident who long has had a residence in Palm Beach.
Kerr made the announcement at a news conference Friday at the Jupiter town hall.
“Our concern in this investigation centers around victims of human trafficking,” Kerr said, adding that authorities are working with advocacy groups and interpreters to gain information and help those who were trafficked.
The crimes are considered a second-degree misdemeanor for a first offense, carrying a jail term of up 60 days, according to Florida statutes. A second offense is a first-degree misdemeanor, carrying a prison time of up to one year. A third or subsequent offense is considered a third-degree felony, punishable by up to five years in prison.
Kraft, 77, is by far the highest profile name to be arrested in the probe. He faces two charges because he went to the Orchids of Asia Day Spa twice, Detective Andrew Sharp said.
Authorities said Kraft was driven to the spa at Indiantown Road and U.S. 1 and that there was film of workers at the storefront business performing sex acts on him.
The sexual activity at the spa, sandwiched among a surf shop, a nail salon, a game room and a Thai restaurant, is believed to be tied to an international human trafficking and prostitution ring. Under state and federal law, human trafficking is defined as soliciting, recruiting, harboring, transporting or otherwise obtaining another person to exploit him or her for labor, domestic servitude or sexual exploitation. Florida ranks third in the nation in the number of cases reported to the national human trafficking hotline.
Kraft’s football team won its sixth Super Bowl this month.