Patriots owner Robert Kraft charged in sex sting operation
Kraft, 77, is among 25 individuals to be charged in probe
Police say they have videotape of Kraft receiving sex acts
Trump calls charges ‘very sad’ in remarks from Oval Office
New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft was charged with solicitation of prostitution as part of a sex trafficking sting operation in Florida, authorities said Friday.
Kraft, the billionaire businessman whose Patriots won the Super Bowl earlier this month and who is one of the most powerful figures in American sports, was charged as a ‘john’ on two misdemeanor counts of soliciting another to commit prostitution at the Orchids of Asia Day Spa, police said.
The owner’s implication in the sting was first reported by Treasure Coast Newspapers.
Jupiter police chief Daniel Kerr said in a press conference on Friday morning that Kraft’s two counts stem from two separate visits to the illicit strip-mall massage parlor “approximately a month ago”.
Kerr said video evidence of the acts was captured by body-worn cameras and additional surveillance the department had been conducting during a months-long investigation into an international human trafficking ring involving multiple law enforcement agencies along the Florida coast.
Police said Kraft’s active warrant is being handled by the state attorney’s office and his attorneys will be notified. While he primarily resides in Massachusetts, Kraft is a longtime seasonal resident of Palm Beach County, according to the Palm Beach Daily News.
“We’re as deeply stunned as anyone else,” Kerr said.
A statement from a spokesperson for Kraft obtained by the Guardian said: “We categorically deny that Mr Kraft engaged in any illegal activity. Because it is a judicial matter, we will not be commenting further.”
NFL owners are subject to the league’s personal conduct policy and could face discipline from commissioner Roger Goodell, who reserves broad authority to punish behavior “by anyone in the league that is illegal, violent, dangerous, or irresponsible, puts innocent victims at risk, damages the reputation of others in the game, and undercuts public respect and support for the NFL”.
An league spokesperson said they are “aware of the ongoing law enforcement matter and will continue to monitor developments”.
Kraft is one of 25 individuals who will be charged according to a police handout.
Andrew Sharp, the lead detective on the case, could not confirm the dollar amount Kraft spent at the spa pending the release of the probable cause affidavit, but said that the average fee was $59 for a half hour and $79 for an hour.
“Does the video contain Mr Kraft inside receiving the alleged acts? The answer to that is yes,” said Sharp, who added that Kraft was driven to the spa on both occasions but that the driver will not be charged at this time.
Kraft, 77, purchased the the Patriots in 1994 for $172m, transforming a perennial also-ran into the NFL’s gold standard, winning a record-tying six Super Bowls. He also owns the New England Revolution of Major League Soccer.
He is the chairman and CEO of the Kraft Group, a privately held diversified holding company with interests in professional sports, manufacturing and real estate development, which generated an estimated $4.6bn in revenue in 2017, according to Forbes.
Kraft, a public ally of Donald Trump and regular visitor to Mar-a-Lago who donated $1m to the president’s inaugural celebrations, was one of several major US sports team owners whose names appeared in the Paradise Papers leak through involvement in firms in tax havens.
Trump addressed the charges from the Oval Office on Friday, describing Kraft’s involvement as “sad” while adding the owner “denies it”.
“It’s very sad,” the president said. “I was very surprised to see it. He’s proclaimed his innocence totally. I’m very surprised to see it.”