This DOJ headline says it all:
“Former Erie County Sheriff’s Deputy Sentenced for Failing to Report Jester Prostitution in Canada.”
Former Erie County Deputy Sheriff Michael Lesinski was sentenced today to one year probation and a $1,000 fine for “misprision of a felony.” He pleaded guilty to transporting prostitutes from the Buffalo New York airport to a national Jester convention in Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada in April, 2005 and not reporting the felony to authorities.
He is the fourth sentenced after the Buffalo News first reported on March 8, 2008 that three Jesters were caught in an FBI human trafficking investigation aimed at the owner of four massage parlors that were fronts for prostitution. All pleaded guilty to transporting an illegal alien prostitute from one of the Buffalo massage parlors to a Jester party in Ashland, Kentucky.
Memberships go like this. One must first be a Master Mason before joining groups like the Scottish Rite, the Knights Templar and the Shriners, best known for operating a network of 22 hospitals that previously provided free medical care to burned and crippled children but now takes insurance.
One must be a secretly invited Shriner before joining the Royal Order of Jesters or ROJ. The ROJ is organized into two nonprofit corporations, each classified by the IRS as a 501c10 fraternity and a 501c3 charity. The fraternity has approximately 23,500 members who are organized into 191 "courts" for the exempt purpose of "holding annual events which are devoted to fraternalism and spreading the gospel of mirth and good cheer." Each “court” corresponds to a Shriner temple.
This all started after the Western New York Human Trafficking Task Force was formed in November, 2006. It "is a collaboration of local, state and federal law enforcement agencies and non-government service organizations working together to identify, rescue and assist victims of human trafficking, human smuggling and other civil and human rights offenses in the 17 counties of the district, through aggressive investigation, prosecution, training, education and outreach to law enforcement, non government organizations, vulnerable and affected persons and the general public."
The task force led to a 15 month FBI investigation into prostitution in the Buffalo area. Agents gathered enough evidence to arrest Len Wah Chong, now in prison for six years after pleading guilty to sex trafficking by force, coercion and fraud. She attracted illegal alien prostitutes by promising her establishments were protected by law enforcement.
Investigators listened to phone conversations between Chong and two Jesters in positions of authority as they discussed transporting an illegal alien prostitute to a weekend Jester party in Ashland Kentucky. According to Aaron Becksecker of the Buffalo News:
“As a part of her guilty plea, Chong admitted she used names and titles of men she said were in positions of authority, like 'judge' or 'sheriff,' to exert control over the women. There were at least 11 women whom she employed over the period she operated the parlors.”
According to United States of America v Michael Lesinski, the FBI defines the Jesters for the first time as:
“The Royal Order of Jesters ('ROJ') is a worldwide 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 area 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 ‘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 make arrangements to transport prostitutes to ‘books.’”
According to the complaint, investigators began interviewing several Jesters in January and February of 2008 including John Trowbridge, a retired captain with the Lockport, New York, Police Department. He admitted to attending a number of North American “books” with prostitutes. He described a number of occasions where members of the Buffalo Court, including Ronald Tills, then a New York State Supreme Court Judge, and his law clerk, Michael Stebick, made arrangements for Jester Girls to attend “books.” According to his plea agreement, in or about spring, 2006, Tills admitted to coordinating the prostitute’s travel with national Jester officers.
Trowbridge also described how Tills was in charge of getting the Jester Girls to the national meeting and that the judge asked Lesinski to take care of it. Lesinski, at the time, was a deputy sheriff with the Erie County Sheriff’s Department.
Trowbridge then disclosed that Lesinski rented a limousine to transport about a dozen prostitutes from Buffalo to Canada.
The Jesters’ 2005 tax return lists $70,049 for transportation. The complaint includes a receipt from Lakeview Limousine that indicates a deposit of $980 was paid for by check, with a total cost of $1,175.
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 Girl prostitutes. 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.