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Opening Statements in Elite Escorts Trial

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INDIO, Calif. — from www.kesq.com – Opening statements are scheduled today in the trial of a man accused of running an interstate prostitution ring based in Palm Springs.

Ofer Moses Lupovitz [pictured], 48, is charged with 180 felony counts ranging from money laundering to tax evasion in connection with an alleged call girl operation that authorities dismantled in 2006.

Lupovitz, who is free on bail, was indicted with six others, three of whom have been convicted. The other three remain at large.

The Riverside County District Attorney’s Office alleges Lupovitz and fellow Israeli national Bo Benmoshe — who is a fugitive — ran the Elite escort service from 2002 to 2006, at one time employing as many as 200 women who provided sex for money throughout California, Arizona and Oregon.

The defendants had joint bank accounts and purchased million-dollar houses adjacent to one another on a cul-de-sac in Rancho Mirage, according to prosecutors. They set up a phone bank, using nearly 120 different numbers that prospective clients would call to make an appointment with a prostitute, prosecutors allege.

Calls were routed to an office in Palm Springs, where receptionists took client information and processed credit card transactions, according to the prosecution.

Elite charged $250 for a girl to show up, then charged anywhere from $150 to $4,000 for an array of sex acts, court papers allege. The pimps allegedly retained 100 percent of the “show” fees and a third of earnings from the hourlong sexual encounters.

The women were expected to tip their drivers and the appointment secretaries, the prosecution alleges.

Elite ran advertisements in the phone book and via the Internet, said Deputy District Attorney Kelly Sedochenkoff.

Authorities became aware of the operation as early as 2003, and a formal investigation was initiated in 2005. Riverside County sheriff’s detectives, with help from federal authorities, cracked the case after a series of “buy- busts,” according to court papers.

Lupovitz is being tried on three charges — conspiracy, pimping and pandering — according to the district attorney’s office. The scores of other counts remain active and may be the subject of another trial if there’s no plea agreement.

Lupovitz’s wife, Gabrel Lukow, pleaded guilty for her part in the prostitution ring, as did two other women, Stephanie Michelle Vintrov and Melanie Smith.

The whereabouts of Lupovitz’s alleged associates — Benmoshe, Moti Vintrov and Eliran Vintrov — are unknown.

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