An arrest warrant has been issued against New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft as part of a prostitution sting in Florida, Palm Beach state’s attorney Dave Aronberg said at a press conference Monday.
“This is not about lonely old men or victimless crimes,” Aronberg told reporters. “This is about enabling a network of criminals to traffic women into our country for forced labor and sex.”
Kraft, 77, faces two first-degree misdemeanor counts of soliciting prostitution at Orchids of Asia Day Spa in a strip mall in Jupiter, Fla. According to police, there is video evidence of Kraft engaging in sexual activity during two separate visits to the spa.
Kraft’s scheduled court date is April 24, but he is not required to appear — his lawyer can appear on his behalf.
According to charging documents, Kraft wore a blue baseball cap and shorts when he entered the spa on Jan. 20 at about 11 a.m. and was taken to a massage room, where an unidentified woman performed a sex act on him. After he left the spa in a white Bentley, he was stopped by Jupiter police, who identified him with his Massachusetts driver’s license.
The timing is interesting because later that evening, the Patriots faced the Chiefs in Kansas City for the AFC championship game.
“The documents speak for themselves,” Aronberg said.
A spokesperson for Kraft pushed back against the allegations on Friday.
“We categorically deny that Mr. Kraft engaged in any illegal activity,” the spokesperson said in a statement. “Because it is a judicial matter, we will not be commenting further.”
Kraft faces up to a year in prison on each charge, and could be forced to complete 100 hours of community service and attend an awareness course on the dangers of prostitution and human trafficking.
But the billionaire owner could face punishment from the NFL even if the charges don’t result in a criminal conviction. The league says disciplinary options against players include fines, suspensions, and banishment, and that team owners or league managers are “held to a higher standard” and subject to “more significant discipline.”
In a statement Monday, the league said it “will take appropriate action” against Kraft based on the outcome of the investigation and whatever facts emerge.
“We will handle this allegation in the same way we would handle any issue under the Policy. We are seeking a full understanding of the facts, while ensuring that we do not interfere with an ongoing law enforcement investigation,” the statement said.
Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay was suspended for six games and fined $500,000 following his arrest on drug charges in 2014. Ex-San Francisco 49ers owner Eddie DeBartolo Jr. was fined $1 million and suspended for the entire 1999 season after pleading guilty in connection to a Louisiana gambling scandal involving the state’s former governor, Edwin Edwards.
Kraft was one of about 200 individuals charged last week in connection with suspected illegal activity at 10 Florida spas. Stemming from a months-long surveillance of area massage parlors, charges against spa owners and clients include human trafficking, racketeering, and money laundering, but the large majority were for solicitation of prostitution, according to arrest reports provided by the police.