The sex sting that authorities say snared Robert Kraft on surveillance video had its origin last summer on a tip to check out the Orchids of Asia day spa in Jupiter, Florida, for possible illicit sexual activity, a police probable cause affidavit reports.
The Jupiter police investigation lasted six months, culminating in the raid on the spa Tuesday and the release Friday of the identities of Kraft, billionaire owner of the NFL New England Patriots, and 24 other male customers caught on tape.
All were charged with soliciting sex acts for money during massage sessions that investigators said in the affidavit involved manual or oral stimulation. They said they did not observe sexual intercourse in any of the recorded video.
The affidavit said Jupiter police, using the ruse of a bomb scare report, evacuated Orchids of Asia shortly before midnight on Jan. 17, then planted hidden cameras inside the spa. Five days of video evidence was collected.
Names of the customers were connected with the video through spa records seized in the raid.
The 77-year-old Kraft, who maintains a residence in nearby Palm Beach, denied in a statement he did anything illegal but gave no further explanation “because it is a judicial matter.” The NFL could discipline Kraft for personal misconduct. The league office said only it “would continue to monitor developments.”
The tip that eventually led to the raid of the Orchids of Asia spa came from authorities in Martin County in August as part of an investigation into human trafficking at massage parlors across Florida. In all, more than 200 individuals are expected to be charged, including the operators of what authorities believe is an international prostitution ring stretching to New York and Asia.
Jupiter police said they initially searched the internet for clues to the spa’s activities, then conducted a 24-hour video surveillance in November outside of the storefront location in a strip mall, noticing only male patrons even though the spa advertised for women customers as well.
The next step, according to the affidavit, was a Florida Department of Health inspection that provided information indicating women working at the spa also lived there. The inspector noticed beds, dressers with personal items and a refrigerator on the premises.
Before they decided on the bomb scare ruse, the police affidavit said in January officers stopped the vehicles of customers shortly after they left the spa to inquire what went on inside and they admitted participating in sexual activity. Police used that information to obtain a search warrant needed to plant the video equipment.
The human trafficking aspect complicates the case against Kraft, the most prominent of the people charged so far in the massage parlors investigation, though Adam Schefter, NFL insider expert for ESPN, said on “Sports Center” he’s been told Kraft is not the only big name involved.
"We got 25 names today, there are 175 more names coming," Schefter said. "Now some will just be regular people whose names we don’t know. But there could be other names that we do know, and that’s how it was explained to me."
The criminal complaint against Kraft is a lowest-level misdemeanor that can be dismissed by a court and sometimes is for first-time offenders. But because the young Asian women providing sex at the Orchids and other spas are under scrutiny as possible illegal immigrants forced into prostitution, the legal process is entangled by human trafficking issues.
Kraft is charged with two counts of paying Orchids spa employees “to perform sexual acts” on him, according to the police affidavit. The charges involve separate visits to the massage parlor during the five days in January the hidden police cameras were videotaping. One of those days, Jan. 20, Kraft attended the NFL playoff game between the Patriots and the Kansas City Chiefs in Kansas City.
Friends and acquaintances of Kraft in the sports, political and philanthropy worlds were uniformly saddened by the charges against the Patriots owner. President Donald Trump, who comforted and befriended Kraft after the death from cancer of his wife Myra in 2011, said he was “very surprised” by the police announcement, noting that Kraft has “proclaimed his innocence totally.”
The New York Times reported that in a 2017 interview Kraft stated: “I cried myself to sleep every night for a year after my wife died, until I met my girlfriend.”
The girlfriend reference was to actress Ricki Noel Lander. Much younger than Kraft, she has appeared at Patriots games and social events with him in the last couple of years. It is not known if they are still dating. She was not spotted with Kraft at the Super Bowl in Atlanta earlier this month.
Fans of the Patriots fashion Kraft as the savior of the team’s fortunes by doling out $172 million to buy the franchise in 1994 from James Orthwein, who wanted to move the team to St. Louis.
At the time, the Patriots had appeared in only one Super Bowl (1986), losing by an embarrassing margin to the Chicago Bears. Kraft’s ownership lifted the Patriots to 10 more Super Bowls, winning six out of nine in the last 18 years to establish a 21st century pro football dynasty under coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady.