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1st ‘john' in prostitution conspiracy prosecuted

A cardiologist is the first “john” prosecuted in connection with Charlotte's high-priced prostitution ring, and other clients may be next.

Dr. Kenneth S. Friedman, who practices near Raleigh, pleaded guilty Monday in federal court to conspiring to entice an individual, identified only as “SJ,” to travel from North Carolina to Las Vegas to engage in prostitution.

Friedman, 55, is free on $25,000 bond pending sentencing. He faces up to five years in prison and a fine up to $250,000.

Court documents do not disclose Friedman's role in the conspiracy.

But sources told the Observer that Friedman is a client of Sallie Saxon, who's accused of running a lucrative Charlotte call-girl service.

Charlotte defense lawyer Melissa Owen, the madam's lawyer, said Monday that Friedman was one of Saxon's clients. His name, Owen said, appears on Saxon's client list.

The conspiracy Friedman is accused of participating in occurred from September 2006 through December 2006, according to court documents.

“He certainly was a client of Sallie's during that period,” Owen said.

Some of Saxon's other clients may be targeted for prosecution next.

“Johns are under investigation,” one source said. “I know some of the johns have hired lawyers.”

Federal authorities have videotape of Saxon's clients entering and exiting hotels and meeting with prostitutes in the lobbies. On Aug. 1, 2006, authorities watched a Saxon client, identified as “S.B,” leaving Room 106 of the Residence Inn on J.A. Jones Drive in SouthPark, 2007 court documents say. A prostitute left the room a short time later.

“S.B. was followed into the parking lot and observed entering and driving off in a white Mercedes SUV,” the documents say.

Telephone wiretaps also have captured clients talking with Saxon, making arrangements for the prostitutes. Some of the men asked for specific call girls. Some wanted to take the women out to dinner, too.

Saxon made $3 million selling sex to the city's civic and business elite. She charged clients as much as $700 an hour for her prostitutes. And she had lists of more than 500 clients who used her Internet-based escort service. Her prostitutes used hotels in the SouthPark and uptown areas.

Saxon pleaded guilty in January in a deal with prosecutors that could land her in prison for two to four years. She is awaiting sentencing.

Sallie Saxon's husband, Donald Saxon, and Taylorsville photographer Glenn Fox also have pleaded guilty in connection with their roles in the prostitution ring. They too are awaiting sentencing.

Sallie Saxon has been cooperating with federal authorities, spelling out for prosecutors how the prostitution ring worked, who the big customers were and how they may have helped the business flourish.

Sources have said investigators are focusing on clients who may have aided the prostitution conspiracy, or who committed other crimes in connection with their sexual encounters.

Drugs, gambling and human trafficking can sometimes be involved in prostitution rings, experts say, although sources interviewed by the Observer said they've seen no indication of such crimes connected to the Charlotte ring.

Instead, some Charlotte clients may have played a role in enticing or traveling with prostitutes across state lines – which could elevate their activity to a federal crime. Others may have misreported their expenditures on sex as business expenses, which could amount to tax fraud.

One of Sallie Saxon's clients identified in court papers as “G.C.” paid $3,500 using a business check, and wrote “Internet Development” on the memo line, according to an FBI agent. Another client, “B.C.,” paid $10,000 to travel with a prostitute in March 2007 for a weekend in Chicago, court documents show.

The call girls were attractive, mostly college-educated women, who traveled from New York, Canada, Asia and Brazil, sources said. Many had other jobs. Some were single mothers supplementing their income.

The women generally made 70 percent of what Saxon charged clients. One woman told authorities she made about $160,000 in 2006.

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