The man who ran an escort business at the heart of the scandal that helped bring down former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer was sentenced Friday to 2 1/2 years in prison.
Mark Brener, 63, pleaded guilty last year to conspiracy to commit a prostitution offense and conspiracy to commit money laundering.
"I want to apologize to this court, my family and anyone else I have hurt as a result of my actions," Brener said at the hearing. "I am sorry."
The U.S. attorney's office had asked the court for a maximum of 2 1/2 years for Brener, arguing that he deserved "substantial punishment" for his role in the business.
Prosecutors said he was the "driving force" behind the Emperors Club VIP, a lucrative enterprise that employed prostitutes in New York, Miami and Europe. When Brener was arrested, agents found nearly $1 million in cash stashed in his New Jersey apartment.
His customers included Spitzer, who resigned March 12 after details of a tryst with one of Brener's prostitutes in a Washington hotel were revealed. Investigators had been looking into Spitzer's affairs after noticing unusual activity — later shown to be payments to prostitutes — in the governor's bank accounts.
Spitzer's name was never uttered during the hearing, but Brener's lawyer, Murray Richman, said his client was "collateral damage" in an investigation that was originally aimed at Spitzer. Richman also suggested the crime was "victimless."
U.S. District Judge Denny Chin rejected that argument, saying: "It may go on all the time. It may be the second-oldest profession. It's certainly my view that a lot of people are significantly hurt by this."
Brener's girlfriend, Cecil Suwal, helped him run the service's day-to-day operations and was sentenced last month to six months in jail. A booking agent, Tanya Hollander, got a year's probation and a second booking agent has yet to be sentenced.
Prosecutors have not charged the service's prostitutes, suggesting in a court filing that those women had been "victimized" by the ring. Prosecutors announced in November that they also wouldn't charge Spitzer.
Brener's attorney, Murray Richman, said in a letter to the judge that his client was a changed man since going to prison, and is now "determined to live a law-abiding life." Brener has been jailed since his arrest.