A woman accused of booking clients for a high-priced call girl ring pleaded guilty Wednesday to money laundering and promoting prostitution in the federal probe that brought down former Gov. Eliot Spitzer.
Temeka Rachelle Lewis, who worked as a booking agent for the Emperor's Club VIP, is the first defendant to admit guilt in the case that led to Spitzer's resignation.
She made a brief court appearance in a plea bargain that obligates her to turn over records, testify before a grand jury if asked and answer any questions investigators may have about her role in arranging dates between Emperor's Club working girls and the agency's deep-pocketed clients.
Her agreement to cooperate was revealed in court papers filed by prosecutors, then reluctantly confirmed by her lawyer, Marc Agnifilo, after a federal magistrate turned down his request to have the records sealed. Members of the news media had objected to a seal.
Agnifilo said Lewis, 32, has yet to be asked to appear before the grand jury. He added that prosecutors have not disclosed whether the probe's next target is Spitzer, who has not been charged.
'She'll never be in trouble again'
Asked why his client pleaded guilty, Agnifilo said Lewis, who majored in English at the University of Virginia and has never been in trouble with the law before, just wants to put the case behind her.
"She's basically a very good person. Sitting at a defense table in a federal courthouse is the last place she imagined she'd be," he said. "I have no doubt she'll never be in trouble again."
Lewis, with her mother and sister looking on, appeared calm in court, then left without speaking to reporters. Under federal sentencing guidelines she could face around 16 months in prison, or less, depending on the level of her cooperation with prosecutors, Agnifilo said.
Her sentencing was tentatively scheduled for August.
The Emperor's Club investigation began last year when banks flagged suspicious cash transfers to companies set up to disguise payments by the ring's clients. Some of the transfers were traced to Spitzer.
The FBI disclosed in court papers that agents secretly recorded conversations between Lewis and Spitzer about a Feb. 13 tryst in Washington with a prostitute. The former governor, identified in court papers only as Client 9, allegedly paid $4,300.
Spitzer, who is married and has three teenage daughters, resigned March 12, just days after his role in the case became public. Spitzer has apologized without expressly acknowledging he had visited prostitutes.
Three other defendants
The other defendants are Mark Brener, 62, of Cliffside Park, N.J., who is accused of running the ring; Cecil Suwal, 23, who lives with Brener; and Tanya Hollander, 36, of Rhinebeck, N.Y., who authorities said also worked as a booking agent for prostitutes.
Investigators say the ring charged $1,000 to $5,500 per hour for dozens of prostitutes in New York, Washington, Los Angeles, Miami, London and Paris.
As state attorney general, Spitzer built a reputation as a crusader against shady practices and overly generous compensation on Wall Street. The Democrat's cases included prosecution of prostitution rings and the sex tourism industry.