Police in Orlando today arrested three employees of the Orlando Weekly on charges of aiding and abetting prostitution. The three worked in the paper's classified section. Police say they were helping the city's escorts and massages parlors write coded ads to attract johns while escaping detection from police.
"The prostitution problem has been growing here in recent years because Orlando Weekly is providing space for these kinds of criminal enterprises," MBI director Bill Lutz said. "We did send them letters and that worked at the time, but this time, they told us to go pound sand."
As part of Operation Weekly Shame, two female agents went undercover and presented themselves as prostitutes to at least two of the Weekly's advertisers, Lutz said. They made it clear that the ads were for promoting their prostitution businesses.
Sgt. Paul Zambouros, a deputy who heads the MBI's vice unit, in June sent a letter to the Don Farley, publisher of Times-Shamrock Communications Alternative Newsweekly Group which publishes the Orlando Weekly - asking that the Adult Services and Certified Massage sections be eliminated from the newspaper.
Zambouros said the newspaper was benefiting from the prostitution ads.
The paper itself was put on notice that it's being investigated for racketeering for running the ads. The same police department is also hinting that it may next go after Craigslist.
Incidentally, 2006 was the bloodiest year in Orlando's history. The city recorded more murders than Miami, a city twice its size. Putting the obvious First Amendment issues aside, you can't help but wonder why in light of the violence going on in the city Orlando's police department would find it necessary to spend the money on a two-year investigation into ads for happy ending massage parlors in local newspapers.
Thanks to frequent H&R commenter "Lamar" for the tip.