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Two Men in La. Brothel Case Admit Guilt

January 9, 2003

NEW ORLEANS (AP) _ Two men accused of hiring prostitutes from a high-priced brothel pleaded guilty in federal court Thursday in a deal that will cost them no more than six months in prison and $500 apiece in fines.

Oil business partners Ralph Wadleigh and Michael Reine had faced felony charges for allegedly lining up prostitutes for visitors to a yacht owned by White Sands Services LLC, according to court documents.

Wadleigh and Reine instead pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge and were set for sentencing on April 23, U.S. Attorney Jim Letten said. The felony charges carried harsher sentences.

White Sands Services pleaded guilty to violating the White Slavery Trafficking Act and agreed to pay an $80,000 fine.

U.S. District Judge Ivan Lemelle called the plea bargain ``a hell of a deal″ for the defendants.

Wadleigh and Reine were the last of more than a dozen defendants charged in the brothel case. All defendants, including the prostitutes, made plea agreements.

The brothel was part of a ring employing $250-per-hour call girls and operating in New York, Pittsburgh, Atlanta, Chicago, Boston, Houston, Biloxi, Miss., and Grand Rapids, Mich., prosecutors said.

When the case broke early last year, federal prosecutors drew national publicity and some criticism for pursuing the kind of sex-for-hire charges that local authorities usually handle.

Federal authorities also decided not to charge hundreds of other alleged customers. The names of those customers have not been released and are unlikely to be made public unless local authorities decide to pursue them.

Local prosecutor Eddie Jordan said Tuesday that he will review the case to decide whether to pursue state charges against other alleged customers.

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