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Sunday, February 8, 2009

Pimp To The Can

By Benjamin Weiser

The former tax specialist who ran the high-priced prostitution service that the authorities say was patronized by former Gov. Eliot Spitzer, was sentenced Friday to two and a half years in prison on prostitution and money-laundering conspiracy charges.

The man, Mark Brener, 63, apologized and both he and his lawyer asked for leniency, but the judge, Denny Chin of Federal District Court in Manhattan, said he was not moved by their pleas, particularly by the lawyer’s suggestion that the crime had had no victims.

“I certainly don’t believe that prostitution is a victimless crime,” Judge Chin said. “It may go on all the time and be the world’s second oldest profession. It’s certainly my view that a number of people are significantly hurt by this.”

Prosecutors had charged that Mr. Brener was the organizer of the ring, Emperors Club V.I.P., which the government said generated enormous profits, which were then laundered using a set of bank accounts opened in the names of fictitious businesses.

“Brener’s conduct warrants substantial punishment,” Daniel L. Stein, an assistant United States attorney told the judge in court papers.

In seeking leniency, Mr. Brener’s lawyer, Murray Richman, said in court that his client had already spent 11 months in prison and was not a threat to the community.

“It’s his responsibility, and he takes full responsibility,” Mr. Richman said.

When asked if he wanted to address the court, Mr. Brener stood and took a few moments to compose himself, appearing to choke away tears. Citing his time in jail, he said, “I have used this time away from my family and society to learn from my mistakes.”

“As a man of my age,” he added, “I know now that I do not have any more time to waste, and I will not violate the law again.”

Mr. Brener pleaded guilty last June, and both sides agreed as part of the deal that a sentence of two to two and a half years would be reasonable, and prosecutors asked the judge to stay within that range. In court papers, Mr. Richman asked the judge to impose “time served,” which would have been a term of nearly 11 months.

Mr. Spitzer resigned last March 12, two days after his involvement with the ring was disclosed. He was not charged.

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