Maine man gets 20 days in Zumba paid-sex case

By David Sharp

Associated Press

Published: Thursday, March 21 2013 9:51 a.m. MDT

FILE - In this Jan. 18, 2013 file photo, Mark Strong Sr., leaves the Cumberland County Court House in Portland, Maine. Strong, who helped run a prostitution operation out of his mistress's Zumba studio and viewed secretly videotaped sex acts was ordered Thursday to spend 20 days in jail in a scandal that rocked a community better known for its beaches and sea captains' homes.

Robert F. Bukaty, File, Associated Press

Enlarge photo»

PORTLAND, Maine — An insurance agent who helped run a prostitution operation out of his mistress's Zumba studio and viewed secretly videotaped sex acts was ordered Thursday to spend 20 days in jail in a scandal that rocked a community better known for its beaches and sea captains' homes.

Before being sentenced, Mark Strong Sr. apologized for his actions and for the pain he'd caused his family. He was convicted earlier this month of 12 counts of promotion of prostitution and one count of conspiracy in Kennebunk, a quaint small town next door to the Bush family summer compound in Kennebunkport.

Prosecutors were seeking a 364-day jail term, while the defense asked for no more than 14 days in jail. In addition to the 20-day sentence, the judge ordered Strong to pay a $3,000 fine. The defense filed of a notice to appeal and asked the judge to stay the sentence pending the appeal, but the judge denied bail.

Prosecutors said the married Strong cultivated a relationship with Alexis Wright and controlled the business, receiving Google calendar alerts for her appointments, reviewing Wright's ledgers, watching the encounters and running clients' license plate numbers through the Maine Bureau of Motor Vehicles database. He used his status as a private investigator to check out the plate numbers, they said.

He even had suggestions for maximizing profits, like seeking higher-paying fetish clients and suggesting sex with multiple clients, prosecutors said.

From his office 100 miles away, Strong watched the sexual encounters live via Skype, not just because he was a voyeur but also because he was both monitoring the operation and acting as Wright's protector, prosecutors said.

"Based on his sophisticated crime, his calculation in committing these crimes, his utter lack of remorse, the court should impose a sentence that gives fair warning that this type of criminal enterprise is not tolerated in Maine," prosecutors wrote in their sentencing memorandum.

Strong, 57, of Thomaston, has acknowledged helping the 30-year-old Wright open her Kennebunk dance studio and having an affair with her. He says he loaned her money that was repaid with interest, and that he didn't profit from prostitution.

In court on Thursday, Strong apologized to his family and expressed remorse for his actions.

"I guess I'm the only who can know the remorse that I have. I do apologize for each of my selfish actions and the harm that I have caused many. Most importantly I want to apologize to my wife, my two sons and my entire family because I've caused so much hurt in so many ways, emotionally, physically and financially," he said, his voice choking.

His wife, Julie, arm-in-arm with their son Bradley, broke down in tears as she pleaded for leniency, saying her husband "suffers from an illness that is curable." She also said their marriage is better now that he's confronting his illness.

"What started as my worst nightmare I could ever imagine has turned into one of God's greatest gifts because God has given me a new marriage with a new man, and he is the man I always knew he was," Julie Strong told the judge. "When I first saw him and met him, I could see a kind and gentle soul. Nobody chooses to do what he does.

Prosecutors said in their sentencing memo that Strong received 20 percent of revenues from Wright's operation, and email traffic between the two indicated paid sex acts continued even after police raided Wright's dance studio, office and home in Kennebunk.

"This was not a man in love. This was not a voyeur. This was hard-nosed businessman," McGettigan said.

All told, Wright is accused of bringing in more than $150,000 from prostitution over an 18-month period. She is due to stand trial in May.

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