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DC Madam about to go public

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May 4, 2007

050407madam.jpgA prominent military consultant and as well as a Bush administration official have already been linked to a Washington, D.C.-area escort service that prosecutors contend was a prostitution ring. Others soon could join them after a television newsmagazine reports what it learned from the accused madam’s phone records.

The ABC News show “20/20″ on Friday plans to air what it has learned about Deborah Jeane Palfrey’s business from 46 pounds of phone records she gave the network before a judge’s order barring her from releasing them took effect.

Palfrey, 51, of Vallejo, Calif., is charged in federal court with racketeering and money laundering associated with prostitution.

She contends that she ran Pamela Martin and Associates as a “legal, high-end erotic fantasy service” and that the women who worked for her signed contracts in which they promised not to have sex with clients. Prosecutors say she knew the 130 women she employed over 13 years engaged in prostitution.

Palfrey has said she gave ABC News the phone records because she hopes a network investigation of the records would compel customers to testify they did not engage in sexual conduct with the escorts.

Senior State Department official Randall Tobias resigned from his post last week after ABC confronted him about his use of the service. Tobias confirmed to the network that he used the service but denied that he had sex with the escorts.

In court papers filed last month, Palfrey named Harlan Ullman, known as an author of the “shock and awe” combat strategy, as a regular customer. Ullman has said the accusation does not merit a response.

On Thursday, a lawyer for Palfrey said an instructor at the U.S. Naval Academy was one of the service’s escorts and ABC reported that a secretary at a prominent law firm was another escort.

Montgomery Blair Sibley, Palfrey’s civil attorney, confirmed a report in the Navy Times that an academy instructor worked as an independent contractor for Palfrey’s service. Sibley said he didn’t know whether the person is still at the academy.

An academy spokeswoman said she had no information about Sibley’s claim.

ABC said a legal secretary at the Akin Gump law firm was suspended after telling her bosses that she had been secretly working as one of Palfrey’s escorts. ABC did not name the woman, who told Akin Gump she expects to be a government witness in the case.

The network has said the list of Palfrey’s customers also includes a Bush administration economist, a prominent chief executive officer, the head of a conservative think tank, lobbyists and military officials.

Palfrey and the Internet radio station wsRadio.com will auction tapes of five one-hour interviews with her next week, The Washington Post reported for Friday’s editions. The bids will start at $5,000.

The station’s president, Chris Murch, would not disclose details of the contract to the newspaper but said Palfrey will donate 10 percent of the proceeds to charity.

Prosecutors raised the prospect this week that Palfrey could jump bail now that she’s been removed from electronic monitoring, pointing out that she’s done it before.

In 1991, she skipped out on her pending trial for pimping out women and other charges in California, leaving only a long, rambling letter with her attorney.

“Prison is an absurd and unthinkable horror for me to embrace for simply being an enterprising business person,” she wrote. “For God’s sake, I was only running an escort service!”

She claimed — much as she claims now — that her lawyers failed her and that police and prosecutors were out to get her.

A few months later she was arrested in Montana at the Canadian border. It is not entirely clear whether she was leaving the country or seeking to re-enter. She was later sentenced to 18 months in prison after pleading guilty to attempted pimping.

In the current case, she has also complained about alleged prosecutorial misconduct and her court-appointed lawyer.

In court this week, U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler agreed to give her a new attorney because of “irreconcilable differences.”

Palfrey is using court-appointed attorneys. The government has seized most of her assets, accusing her of laundering more than $2 million in revenue from the business.

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Associated Press writer Allison Hoffman in San Diego contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2007 The Associated Press