Editor’s Note and Adult Content Warning: This article includes references to prostitution, human trafficking and sex slavery. It’s also kind of long. I thought it best to provide as much background as possible because it’s kind of hard to wrap your head around the fact that this is about those in positions of power who believe their vows of secrecy and brotherhood will protect their nationwide network of prostitution, operated at tax payer expense.
Happy Holidays and thanks for being here,
January 2, 2011
This is about the retired Erie County Deputy Sheriff who recently pleaded guilty to knowing about the felony of transporting prostitutes from the Buffalo International Airport to a national Royal Order of Jesters (ROJ) national convention in Ontario, Canada and hiding the crimes by not reporting them.
This is part of the case involving three Jesters who got caught in an FBI human trafficking sting out of Buffalo, NY. These include a retired police captain, a former New York State Supreme Court judge and his law clerk. All three pleaded guilty to violating the Mann Act after confessing to driving an illegal alien prostitute from Buffalo to a weekend Jester party in Ashland, Kentucky.
The ROJ is a secret sub-group of the Shriners, best known for operating a network of 22 hospitals that used to provide free care to burned and crippled children but now takes insurance. One must first be a Master Mason before joining groups like the Scottish Rite, the Knights Templar and the Shriners.
Today’s news is that Michael Lesinski, a retired Erie County Deputy Sheriff and member of the Royal Order of Jesters, admitted last November 19 that he knew that others were committing felonies, such as the transportation of prostitutes in interstate and foreign commerce, and concealed it by not reporting the crimes as soon as possible to law enforcement.
The technical term for this is “misprision of a felony.”
According to Lesinski’s plea agreement:
“The defendant did not report any of the above facts to any judge or civil or military authority under the United States. Also, when returning to the United States from Canada, the defendant then had knowledge of the purpose of the women’s presence at the Jesters organization meeting and lied to United States Customs officials as to the true purpose of his visit to Canada in a deliberate attempt to conceal the crime.”
Lesinski was released on personal recognizance without bail according to his conditions of release, filed on December 4, 2010 with the U.S. District Court of the Western District of New York. He was previously charged last June with conspiring with others to violate the Mann Act after driving a carload of six to seven prostitutes from the Buffalo International Airport to a hotel in Ontario, Canada for a ROJ national meeting.
The first federal criminal complaint states that:
“between April 18, 2005 to on or about April 24, 2005 that the defendant, MICHAEL LESINSKI, did knowingly, willfully and unlawfully combine, conspire and agree together with others, including Ronald Tills, to commit an offense against the United States, that is, to knowingly transport women in interstate and foreign commerce, with the intent that said women engage in prostitution, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 2421; and that at least one overt act was committed in furtherance of the conspiracy, in that the defendant, MICHAEL LESINSKI, on April 18, 2005, did rent limousines in order to transport said women from the Buffalo airport to Niagara Falls Ontario, Canada, with the intent that the women engage in prostitution.”
Ronald Tills is the former New York State Supreme Court Judge who was caught w/his law clerk, Michael Stebick and retired police captain John Trowbridge in an FBI human trafficking sting last October, 2007.
The first Lesinski complaint described the statute violated as the Mann Act.
The next section describes “The Royal Order of Jesters,” as previously reported in “Feds Define Jesters.” This is significant because the Jesters are, for the first time, defined in their own little section of this criminal complaint as:
“The Royal Order of Jesters (ROJ) is a world wide fraternal organization whose membership is limited to individuals invited to join by other members. The motto of the ROJ is ‘mirth is king.’ The ROJ has local chapters or ‘courts.’ On occasion, a local court or group of local courts in the same geographical location sponsor social gatherings known as ‘books of the play’ or ‘books.’ The sponsoring courts organize the ‘books’ and arrange for food, lodging, and entertainment at the ‘book.’ Jesters from all over the country may attend the local ‘books.’ The ROJ also sponsors a yearly national ‘book,’ the equivalent of a national convention. In April, 2005, the Jester's national ‘book’ was held in Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada. As set forth below, a typical feature of a ‘book of the play’ is the presence of prostitutes (‘Jester Girls’) who engage in commercial sex acts with members of the ROJ. Arrangements for the prostitutes are generally made by the organizer of the ‘books,’ or the region hosting the national ‘book.’ On occasion, individual Jesters may make arrangements to transport prostitutes to ‘books.’”
Here is a copy of a script for the “Book of the Play.”
This recent Department of Justice press release includes the Jesters in this headline:
“Former Erie County Sheriff’s Deputy Pleads Guilty in Connection with Jester Prostitution Case.”
According to the first complaint, investigators began interviewing several Jesters in January and February of 2008 including Trowbridge, a retired captain with the Lockport, New York, Police Department. He described a nationwide network of prostitution as he admitted travelling to “books” in both the U.S. and Canada. He described occasions where Buffalo Court Jesters, including Tills and Stebick, made arrangements for Jester Girls to attend “books.”
Tills was in charge of getting the prostitutes to the Jesters’ national “book” across the border in Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada. According to his plea agreement, Tills admitted to coordinating the prostitutes’ travel with national Jester officers, in or about spring, 2006.
Trowbridge then stated that Tills asked Michael Lesinski, a deputy sheriff with the Erie County Sheriff’s Department, to take care of it. Trowbridge then disclosed that Lesinski rented a limousine to transport about a dozen prostitutes from Buffalo to Canada.
The complaint then includes co-conspirator Michael Stebick’s description of how Jester “books” are typically held in hotel hospitality rooms where members can pick from a list of Jester Girls.
It continues that in April, 2008, Trowbridge provided investigators with contact information for the 13 prostitutes as he’d spoken with each of them as they gathered at the Buffalo airport though there were other prostitutes he’d not spoken with.
In June 2008 Tills told investigators that there were about 30 women at the national book and “described a network of members who had the ability to supply such women.” It was then that he identified Lesinski’s renting of two limousines that took the prostitutes to Canada.
This all started when the FBI began surveillance from August, 2007 to November, 2007 of massage parlors suspected as being fronts for prostitution.
It turns out that Len Wah Chong pleaded guilty to running four brothels, partially staffed with illegal aliens who travelled through an international human trafficking network.
This application for the search warrant includes information from FBI wiretaps and includes Chong talking about the “judge” and “police captain.”
The only “judge” associated with this has been former Judge Tills. And the only “police captain” associated with this has been retired police captain John Trowbridge.
Here are descriptions of phone conversations found in the Chong complaint that mentioned the “judge” and the “police captain.” The information in the complaint was gathered by the FBI.
“in cooperation with the U.S. Border Patrol, Immigration and Customs Enforcement or ICE and the Niagara County Sheriff’s Department. It was gathered through interviews, physical surveillance, background investigations, consensually monitored meetings, wire intercepts and while examining financial records, pen registers and trap/trace data, and telephone subscriber/toll records pertaining to the investigation of the offenses described above.
This application was also filed to obtain arrest warrants for:
- Keeping, maintaining, controlling, supporting or harboring an individual in any home or place.
- The purposes of prostitution, conspired to keep and control female aliens for the purposes of prostitution, or any other immoral purpose.
- Knowing or in reckless disregard of the fact that said individual is an alien.
- Failing to file the required statement concerning the individual within five business days of commencing such activity with the relevant immigration authorities.
This fifteen month investigation was initiated in September, 2006, by the FBI and U.S. Border Patrol on a tip that one of the acupressure businesses was a front for prostitution. Per the document, “full sets” refers to sexual intercourse and “half-sets” can be used to refer to either oral sex or hand-jobs (that is, anything less than intercourse). Other terms used are “mouth” or “oral,” both meaning oral sex.
Court ordered wire intercepts on three telephones revealed the following, to include references to other law enforcement officers as well as the judge and police captain. The following has been edited to include specific references to the “judge,” the “police captain” and other law enforcement officers.
19. On August 23, 2007, CHONG placed a telephone call to premises 1. CHONG told an unknown Asian female (UAF) that the “police captain” is on his way to Premises 1. She instructed the UAF to give him a 45 minute service and wanted to know whose turn it was in the rotation. The UAF told CHONG it was an Asian female whom CHONG referred to as “Lala’s” turn. CHONG told the UAF the “police captain” does not count in the rotation. It should be noted that the “police captain” was coming from Premises 5.
20. On August 24, 2007, CHONG received a telephone call from Premises 1. An Asian female whom CHONG referred to as “Jenny” told her the propane tank is out of gas and they are unable to cook their food. It should be noted in human trafficking cases, victims are required to cook in the locations where they conduct the prostitution to limit their movement and thus maintain greater control over them. They use hot plates fueled by combustible gas charged canisters which are not designed to be used indoors. Some of these canisters have been recovered in the trash from Premises 1.
22. On September 05, 2007, CHONG placed a telephone call to Premises 1. CHONG told an Asian female whom CHONG referred to as “Jenny” the “Police Captain” was on his way to Premises 1. CHONG told “Jenny” the “Police Captain” just visited her husband and his service will not be counted on the normal rotation.
23. On September 06, 2007, CHONG placed a telephone call to Premises 1. CHONG told an Asian female whom CHONG referred to as “Jenny” the “Judge” was on his way to Premises 1. CHONG told “Jenny” to charge him for one hour even though he wanted a one and half hour service.
27. On October 1, 2007, CHONG made a telephone call to Premises 1. CHONG spoke to XU and told her to listen carefully. CHONG said they are on action (or alert), the government won’t give girls tips intentionally. CHONG told XU she just got back from seeing the Sheriff because he was looking for her. CHONG told XU that law enforcement is not intentionally giving tips to the girls to see their reactions.
31. On October 16, 2007, CHONG placed a telephone call to Premises 1. CHONG told an unknown Asian female (UAF) the “Judge” called and could not make it to Premises 1 that day. CHONG told the UAF that Xiu LIN aka “Coco” went to New York City and told everyone if you get arrested in Buffalo, NY, you can get legal immigration status. CHONG told the UAF the “Judge” was also upset with LIN due to her conversations in New York City about obtaining legal immigration status after being arrested in Buffalo, NY. Chong stated the “Judge” advised her to have people from a church provide the girls with a letter in order to help their immigration status.
35. On November 3, 2007, CHONG made a telephone call to Premises 1. CHONG told XU that “Da Quan” called her and informed her that a shop in Buffalo got raided and one girl without legal status was detained and that the two who were released are Da Quan’s friends. CHONG told XU when the Sheriff arrived later he reminded the girls to be cautious and not to ask for tips.
46. On September 5, 2007, CHONG made a telephone call to Premises 3. CHONG spoke to a prostitute named “Amy” and told her that customers who are friends of the Judge called her to complain about “Mary.” Chong told Amy she was at Golden and that Judge told her Lockport is a high class spot, and that girls should not solicit for tips and if they do, he (the Judge) will not help her out. CHONG added that the Judge informed her Mary offended every customer. CHONG said she told the Judge she fired Mary and that the Judge agreed with CHONG’s actions and commented that if she had not fired Mary, she would have made trouble. CHONG advised Amy she should do a good job.
58. On August 20, 2007, CHONG placed a call to Premises 4. CHONG told Feng Xian LI other massage parlors offer half hour service for $30 and $60 for “full service.” CHONG complained that Feng Xian LI charges $65 for a “half set” massage. CHONG stated she doesn’t want to run an ad because safety is first. CHONG believes the prior arrests by Immigration and Customs Enforcement were a result of the advertisements each brothel placed in the Artvoice newspaper. CHONG told the girls that a lot of her customers are police officers and public officials.
65. On September 5, 2007, CHONG received a call from Premises 4. Feng Xian LI told CHONG she was considering bringing her son to the United States from China. Feng Xian LI said her divorce papers were filed but she is unsure if she can bring her son over. CHONG told Feng Xian LI to ask her regular customer, who is an INS officer, to help her bring her son to the U.S. Feng Xian LI said she should provide the INS officer a “full set” if she is going to ask him for assistance. CHONG stated she has a friend that knows this officer and he is scared about being caught since one of his friends was caught and fired.
69. On October 21, 2007, CHONG placed a call to Premises 4. CHONG told Feng Xian LI the “Judge” is mad at Feng Xian LIN because she was talking too much lately concerning her situation. Xiu LIN is a victim/material witness in an ICE investigation which was taken down in March, 2007 in Buffalo , New York. CHONG stated that Xiu LIN told a lot of people that if you come to Buffalo, NY, you can get arrested and obtain legal immigration status. CHONG also stated another government agency is contacting the “Judge” now.
87. On October 18, 2007, CHONG placed a call from Premises 5 to Premises 1. CHONG told an Asian female whom she referred to as “Jenny” the “Judge” and his friends will be going to Premises 1. CHONG told “Jenny” some of them wanted sex and they were to be treated as good customers no matter what.
98. On September 4, 2007, CHONG made a telephone call to Premises 6. CHONG spoke to an unidentified prostitute she called Coco and asked if Coco did the Judge’s friend who is short, and is claiming he did not get good service from Coco after he paid the sixty dollar house fee plus a tip. Coco told CHONG the guy wanted a full set (sexual intercourse) for forty dollars.
102. On September 30, 2007, CHONG made a telephone call to Premises 6. CHONG spoke to an Asian prostitute named Lily and told her that the police left. CHONG told Lily that the police officer said he would like to try massage sometime. CHONG said the Judge and his friends he brought over wanted it for free and they were bad tippers.
138. The investigation has continued to date and the pattern of activities described supra has continued. All brothels continue to appear operational. As this has been consistent throughout the 15 month investigation, your affiant submits that the offenses have continued and are continuing and therefore there is probable cause to believe the fruits, instrumentalities and evidence of said crimes will be located in the places to be searched as described in this affidavit.”
A copy of this document can be read here.
In spite of such investigations, the Jesters are still at it. Though their brothers are being convicted and are under investigation for sex trafficking, prostitution and child sex tourism, the first fifteen or so flyers in this online file show they’re still partying on, as if nothing is wrong.
Remember, the Jesters, like the Shriners, are organized into two nonprofit groups. The fraternal 501c10 tax exempt classification was granted to the Jesters by the IRS as to how the 22,000 Jesters are organized into “courts” that:
“Held annual events which were devoted to fraternalism and spreading the gospel of mirth and good cheer.”
In other words, their tax exempt purpose is to party.
And according to federal charging documents and the IRS, with prostitutes at taxpayer expense.
This 2006 tax return shows that nearly $600,000 was spent on one of their weekend “books,” signed by executive director, Alex Rogers.
The IRS granted the Jesters a 501c3 “charitable” classification in 2004 after a handful of them somehow convinced the taxing agency that the new national headquarters building in Indianapolis, Indiana also housed a museum. The IRS’ application for tax exempt status is otherwise known as a form 1023 and is subject to public disclosure within 30 days of receiving a written request. Three years of written requests for the Jesters 1023 application for their 501c3 “charitable” classification remain unanswered as well as emails to the Texas attorney who seems to have put it all together, Ron Pruitt.
The Jester claim of housing a museum was rejected by the Marion County property assessor and affirmed by the Marion County Tax Assessment Board of Appeals on December 16, 2005. The initial application stated the Jesters “charitable” exempt purpose as:
“Spreading mirth and cheerfulness, promoting good fellowship, assistance and good cheer to others promoting fraternalism, and providing a museum for items and articles of mirth, comedy and laughter.”
The group’s business manager and director, Alex Rogers, appealed the “charitable” denial and convinced the Indiana Tax Appeals board that the Jesters building deserved a property tax exemption because they’re part of the Masonic fraternity. This denial letter includes notes stating that the Jesters support the Shriners hospitals, contrary to the Jesters’ stated exempt purpose, bylaws and articles of incorporation.
Back to the prostitution; charitable, fraternal, federally defined or otherwise.
Len Wah Chong was sentenced to six years in prison, five years parole, forfeited property worth $350,000, and was fined $350,000 as restitution for ten sex trafficking victims.
John Trowbridge was sentenced to 2 years probation and fined $10,000 for violating the Mann Act.
Michael Stebick admitted to driving the Jesters and the prostitute and was sentenced to two years probation, four months house arrest while wearing an ankle bracelet, fined $5,000 and forfeiture of his motor home.
Ronald Tills was sentenced to a year and a half in federal prison and fined $25,000. He is scheduled to be released from the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania Community Corrections Office in three weekjs on January 24, 2011.
Michael Lesinski is scheduled to be sentenced on April 5, 2011 at 9:00 am by the same judge who sentenced the previous three Jesters, United States District Judge William M. Skretny.
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