A former mayor of South Portland, Maine, is among the 21 men accused of paying for sex at a Maine Zumba studio run by instructor Alexis Wright, who has been charged with operating a prostitution ring out of her dance studio.
James Soule, 58, served as mayor of the town near the Kennebunk studio in 2008. Soule, who is facing a misdemeanor soliciting charge, has not responded to requests for comment.
In a scathing statement overnight, Mark Strong, the man accused of booking clients at the Pura Vida Studio owned by Wright, 29, lashed out at investigators, accusing the Kennebunk police department of retaliation and unprofessional conduct. Strong has pleaded not guilty to 59 misdemeanor charges.
"I never had sex with [Wright] for money," Strong wrote in a statement. "The charges against me are untrue. I will be vindicated in a jury trial."
Strong, 57, says he met Wright online and soon developed a personal relationship in which he helped her start a "legitimate business."
Police say Strong helped run Wright's alleged side prostitution business and helped video-tape her clients. Prosecutors say they have 100 hours of video evidence.
Strong, an insurance agent, says he's also a private investigator, and that he began investigating Kennebunk police because the department was harassing Wright.
"The Kennebunk police department seized my computer, which contains multiple interviews of witnesses in that investigation," Strong wrote in his statement.
Police have not responded to inquiries about Strong's allegations.
Daniel G. Lilley, the attorney representing Strong, defended his client.
"From what he says, he's a good guy caught up in a bad situation," Lilley said. "I think if you look at the theory that he was delving into their privacy, if that's true and its retaliation, then the answer's yes. If not, then I don't know why they singled him out."
As the scandal unravels, there has been more fallout in the Maine vacation town after the release of a list of some of Wright's more than 100 alleged clients, which reportedly include a lawyer, a forester and a real estate appraiser.
So far, 21 men have been charged with engaging in prostitution and have been summoned to appear in court. They are among the more than 150 men -- and reportedly one woman -- who are being investigated.
A Maine judge Tuesday cleared the way for police to release the ages and addresses of the first 21 names on the list. Their ages range from 34 to 65, and most live in Maine, one in New Hampshire and one in Boston.
The 21 men have been summoned to appear in court Dec. 5. The full list can be seen here.