KENNEBUNK, Maine (NEWS CENTER/AP) - The business partner of a Maine woman accused of using her Zumba dance studio as a front for prostitution says the charges against him are untrue.
Mark Strong, Sr. of Thomaston has issued a statement in which he says he's "made some bad choices but have broken no laws." He says he's confident he'll be acquitted at trial if the 59 misdemeanor counts aren't dropped before then.
Strong, who's an insurance agent and private investigator, says he became involved by investigating possible police harassment of dance instructor Alexis Wright.
He says he had a personal relationship with Wright but never paid her for sex. He says he co-signed for her lease and loaned her business money that was repaid.
Both Strong and Wright have pleaded not guilty.
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Mark Strong Media release
I met Ms Wright several years ago on line and we developed a personal relationship. I have never had sex with her for money. I am a businessman and I loaned her money to start a legitimate Zumba dance studio with the usual promissory notes at commercial interest rates and she paid back those loans. I also co-signed a lease so she could rent her studio. I did not promote or participate in her business.
In addition to my insurance agency, I am a licensed private investigator. At one point I conducted an investigation on Ms. Wright's behalf because of concerns she had that the Kennebunk police department was harassing her. In the course of that investigation I discovered unprofessional conduct including an affair that a female officer, Audra Presby, was having with her superior officer. He resigned and she was suspended; there was no internal investigation.
Kennebunk Police Officer Audra Presby is the lead investigator against me in this case. The Kennebunk police department seized all my computers and external hard drive that contained the details of my investigation against them. They refuse to give that computer back to me or my attorney.
My investigation of the Kennebunk Police department also disclosed that a police officer shot a woman 4 times at point blank range and killed her. The Kennebunk police officer who killed her was never charged in the death.
It is my belief that the Kennebunk Police Dept., with officer Presby heading up the investigation, publically charged me with one count of promotion of prostitution and arrested only me on July 10, 2012 and confiscated computers in my house and place of business as retaliation against me for my investigation of their department. They filed sworn affidavits in court alleging conduct that was untrue. No other defendants were charged. Three months later, on Oct. 3, 2012, other people were charged in connection with the case and even more charges were lodged against me.
The charges against me are untrue. I have made some bad choices but have broken no laws. If these charges are not dropped I will be vindicated in a jury trial which I have demanded be held as soon as possible.
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Town of Kennebunk Press Release
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 17, 2012
The Town of Kennebunk has again been drawn into the media headlines regarding criminal activity at the Zumba dance studio, this time by the issuance of an inaccurate press release by Mark Strong, one of the principal defendants charged with the promotion of prostitution at that facility. While it would be inappropriate for the Town to try the case in the media, and it will not do so, Mr. Strong's press release is inaccurate in many instances that portray both the Department and several of its sworn officers in a false light and that must be corrected.
First, the department has never "harassed" either Ms. Wright or Mr. Strong. Both have been investigated because of the existence of probable cause that one or more crimes may have been committed at the dance studio. All subsequent searches of Ms. Wright's properties in Kennebunk and Mr. Strong's properties in Thomaston were pursuant to valid search warrants approved in advance by the District Attorney's office and authorized by a State court judge. The Department's efforts here were all the result of professional police investigation, based on probable cause, and pursued with the approval of the District Attorney's office.
Second, Mr. Strong's suggestion that his investigative efforts "disclosed" misconduct by Department personnel and that he was then targeted for retaliation is completely false. The fatal shooting he references was fully reported in the press at the time, and a subsequent in-depth investigation by the Maine Attorney General's office -- as is customary under Maine law -- exonerated the police officer completely. For Mr. Strong now to say that he "discovered" this incident is not only false, but an inappropriate exploitation of an incident that remains tragic for all involved. It has absolutely nothing to do with the dance studio investigation and illegal activities there.
Third, Officer Presby was selected to investigate the dance studio incidents, in part, because the Department felt it appropriate to have one of its three female officers on the investigation team (along with two male State Police Officers) and, in part, because at the time the dance studio investigation began in earnest she was working days on a patrol shift and the Chief felt that her shift position could be covered more easily than other shift positions. Three years ago, unrelated to the dance studio investigation, she was given a written reprimand for having a romantic relationship with another officer in the Department; pursuant to State law, the reprimand was a public record. She was never suspended. The other officer elected to resign from the Department; he was not fired. The two are now engaged to be married. This incident did not then, nor now, have anything to do with the dance studio investigation.
And finally, the Department has returned to Mr. Strong those computers seized from him that were determined not to have any information on them relevant to the dance studio investigations. Others determined to have information on them relevant to the criminal investigations, have not been returned for obvious reasons after consultation with the District Attorney's office.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.