Thursday, May 1, 2008
'D.C. Madam' cashes out
A Northern California woman convicted last month of operating a high-end prostitution ring that catered to Washington's elite was found dead today after apparently hanging herself at her mother's property in Florida, CNN reported. Deborah Jeane Palfrey, 52, who ran the Pamela Martin & Associates escort service and was known as the "D.C. Madam," vowed last year to kill herself rather than return to prison. She left several suicide notes to that effect, police in Tarpon Springs, Fla., said. Palfrey ran her escort service, which operated in Washington, Baltimore and northern Virginia, from her home in Vallejo, Calif., a city of 120,000 in the San Francisco Bay Area. She lived in a well-cared-for house in an older section of Vallejo, which was California's capital from 1851-1852. Palfrey was convicted April 15 of money laundering, racketeering and mail fraud after a two-week trial and faced a maximum 55-year prison term at her sentencing, which was scheduled for July 24. But Palfrey released her telephone records before the trial, and they resulted in the resignations of a U.S. senator, Republican David Vitter of Louisiana, and a top state department official, Randall Tobias, after their telephone numbers were identified. Palfrey maintained that she operated a fantasy service and discouraged sexual contact between her employees and clients. "There's no violence, there's very little if any drug activity. There's very little if any fraud. Basically a bunch of benign women who want to make a living. This is not racketeering by any means -- this is running a business," she told CNN Radio in March. Palfrey was working on a book when she died, according to Time magazine.