Robert Kraft of the New England Patriots, among the NFL’s most influential and successful owners, was charged Friday with two counts of soliciting sex from a prostitute, according to police in Jupiter, Fla.
Kraft, 77, was charged with paying for sexual services at Orchids of Asia Day Spa, one of nearly a dozen spas in the area that police say were used for prostitution. The development was part of a larger crackdown on human trafficking and prostitution in the region, and more than two dozen men have been arrested in the investigation, authorities said. The charges against Kraft are misdemeanors.
Police said a warrant would be issued for Kraft’s arrest. The sexual encounters that resulted in charges were captured on surveillance video, authorities said, and took place during two visits to the spa about a month ago.
A spokesman for Kraft said the allegations were untrue: “We categorically deny that Mr. Kraft engaged in any illegal activity. Because it is a judicial matter, we will not be commenting further.”
Earlier this month, the Patriots posted a 13-3 victory over the Rams in Super Bowl LIII. It was the sixth Super Bowl victory for New England in Kraft’s 25 years of ownership. He has been considered a rock-solid candidate for the Pro Football Hall of Fame, although not quite the slam-dunk, first-ballot inductee that coach Bill Belichick or quarterback Tom Brady is expected to be.
Since Kraft bought the team in 1994, the Patriots have had 22 winning seasons out of 25, and have won more division titles (18), conference championships (10), and Super Bowls (six) than any franchise during that span.
Authorities arrested the spa’s owner, Hua Zhang, earlier this week on suspicion of 29 charges. They include deriving support from the proceeds of prostitution and renting space to be used for prostitution. She has pleaded not guilty to all counts.
In the probable-cause affidavit for Zhang’s arrest, police said they started investigating the business in October and were guided, in part, by several websites noting the spa provided sexual acts in exchange for money.
Police said the spa charged $79 for an hourlong session and $59 for a half-hour. It is located in a strip mall between a nail salon and business that offers escape-room games.
The affidavit contains graphic details from police video surveillance of sexual encounters between the spa’s female staffers and 26 male customers during five days in late January. The men are identified only by their hair color and clothing.
“If there are customers, then these kind of businesses can flourish,” Jupiter Police Chief Daniel Kerr said during a televised news conference Friday.
An investigator from the Florida Department of Health inspected the spa at the request of police, the affidavit said, and believed staffers were living at the business. The investigator noted that the spa included two rooms with beds, a dresser containing clothes and medicine and a refrigerator stocked with food.
The probable-cause affidavit for Kraft hadn’t been filed in Palm Beach County Court as of Friday afternoon.
Along with Jerry Jones of the Dallas Cowboys, Kraft is among the NFL’s most influential owners. He was instrumental in shaping the latest collective bargaining agreement with the players, the return of the NFL to Los Angeles, and many of the league’s highest-profile initiatives. He has been at the center of controversy before, including when his team was penalized for allegedly deflating footballs before a playoff game, an accusation the Patriots staunchly deny.
Kraft, who bought the Patriots for $172 million, has a net worth of $6.6 billion, according to Forbes magazine. He is a resident of Massachusetts but owns property in Palm Beach, Fla. He contributed to President Trump’s inaugural campaign and took part in the Patriots’ championship visit to the White House in 2017.
“Well, it’s very sad,” Trump said about Kraft being charged. “I was very surprised to see it. He’s proclaimed his innocence totally. But I’m very surprised to see it.”
In 2011, his wife of 48 years, Myra, died of cancer. The couple had four sons.
Kraft eventually began dating Ricki Lander, 39, who had a child in 2017. Although he said he is not the biological father, Kraft reportedly is fully supporting the child.
Staff writer Chuck Schilken contributed to this report.