June 25, 2011 in Nation/World

Police say prostitution site run by, for respected men

Jeri Clausing Associated Press
Associated Press photo

Former University of New Mexico President F. Chris Garcia, left, leaves the courtroom with his attorney, David Serna, after his arraignment hearing in Albuquerque, N.M., on Friday.
(Full-size photo)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Two aging professors accused of running a sophisticated prostitution website appeared to have one goal: Police say they wanted to create a place where respected men like themselves could go for sex without having to worry about getting caught up in street stings.

“They have a lot to lose, and they tried to build an organization to protect themselves,” Albuquerque police Lt. William Roseman said.

The website, based in the Albuquerque-Santa Fe area, featured “weather reports” about police vice stings; physical descriptions and cellphone numbers of undercover police to help members avoid arrest; training videos on what to do if members were busted; and detailed information on the prostitutes themselves, including prices and star performance rankings from other members.

Southwest Companions had 1,400 members, including former University of New Mexico President F. Chris Garcia, who police said was in the site’s top echelon.

Membership was invitation-only, and new members were vetted as they worked their way up through three tiers. As the members progressed through the “probation,” “verified” and “trusted” tiers, they gained access to more information about undercover officers and hookers.

The hookers were paid in cash, with prices ranging from $200 for a single act to as much as $1,000 for an hour of time. Police found no evidence students were recruited or that the site was a university network.

David C. Flory, a physics professor at Fairleigh Dickinson University in New Jersey, is suspected of buying the site in 2009. The site was created by a woman named Cara Garrett, who investigators say tipped police to its existence in December after being arrested on drug, child abuse and prostitution charges.

Flory, 68, who lives in New Jersey but has a home in Santa Fe, told police he bought the site to create a safe place for people to buy and sell sex, referring to it as a hobby, Roseman said.

Flory, who used the handle “David 8,” ran the site and was the main moderator, police said. He scolded people for being too graphic and failing to use the site’s acronyms for describing specific acts, according to the criminal complaint.

Garcia used the handle “Burque Pops” while acting as a moderator. But his main job, police said, was to act as a leader of the site’s “Hunt Club,” which looked for new talent – prostitutes willing to come to New Mexico. Police identified at least 20 females recruited by “Burque Pops.”

Garcia’s attorney, David Serna, called his client “one of the most respected citizens the state has ever known.” He added that he learned a long time ago to “view with scrutiny” what is said by Albuquerque police.

Garcia faces charges of promoting prostitution, conspiracy and tampering with evidence.

Garcia has been suspended from his current post as professor emeritus of political science at the University of New Mexico.

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