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Connecticut Madam Busted

BRIDGEPORT, Connecticut – A woman who ran an East Haven-based prostitution ring under the guise of an escort service pleaded guilty in federal court Wednesday.

Deborah Kerpen, 47, of Mount Washington, Ky., formerly of 135 Warner Road, East Haven, entered guilty pleas before U.S. District Court Judge Stefan Underhill to one count of conspiracy to use the United States mail and interstate facilities to operate a prostitution enterprise and one count of money laundering.

As part of a plea bargain agreement, 43 other counts in the indictment will be dropped.

While Kerpen could face up to 25 years in prison for the two charges, prosecutors will recommend that Underhill impose a sentence of between 24 and 30 months, according to Assistant U.S. Attorney John Marrella. Kerpen has a right to argue for less time at her sentencing May 14.

Kerpen allegedly ran the business “Deb’s Escorts,” employing more than 100 women who provided sex in exchange for money, according to Marrella.

“Kerpen knew these employees were engaged in prostitution,” Marrella said.

The business was in operation between 1994 and 2002, and Kerpen advertised in area newspapers in the adult section and in the yellow pages under “Escort Services.” The prostitutes charged a rate of between $175 and $260 per hour, which could be paid with cash or credit card, Marrella said. The escorts would typically meet customers at motels or at the customers’ private homes.

Kerpen allegedly charged more for escorts under age 30 and for credit card transactions.

Later, the escorts would meet with Kerpen to divide proceeds at “square-up” meetings. The escorts kept 60 percent of the proceeds, while Kerpen took 40 percent, according to Marrella.

If the case had proceeded to trial, Marrella said the government was prepared to offer the testimony of escorts and customers, surveillance videos and bank records as evidence.

When Underhill asked Kerpen if anything was inaccurate about the government’s version of events, Kerpen responded with “No.” Kerpen’s defense attorney, William Bloss, declined to comment after the plea.

Kerpen will likely have to forfeit property, including property on Warner Road and Half Mile Road in East Haven.

Two other women, Shannon Ferraiuolo and Amy Gagliardi, have pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges in connection with the prostitution ring, according to the government.

The case arose in 1999 when detectives of the Fairfield Police Department arrested a prostitute working for Deb’s Escorts who had stolen a credit card from a customer in Fairfield, according to the U.S. attorney’s office.

The indictment alleged that Kerpen employed several female managers who worked out of offices on Main Street and Thompson Street in East Haven. These managers arranged sexual encounters and processed payments, documents show.

After paying the expenses of running the business, Kerpen had enough left over to claim a salary of $152,000 in 2000, documents show.


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