Texas prostitution ring catered to the rich, police say

A Houston, Texas, couple is facing felony charges in connection with what authorities allege was an upscale prostitution ring that screened clients before charging them hundreds of dollars a session.

According to court documents in the case, the ring said to be run by Deborah and Charles Turbiville had a client list 1,000 strong. The documents say Deborah Turbiville told an undercover officer that it consisted of “medical doctors, lawyers, financial services stockbrokers and that kind of stuff … a lot of people you might see on television.” The clientele also included professional athletes, according to an affidavit filed in support of a search warrant. The Turbivilles were arrested March 10 and face charges of aggravated promotion of prostitution, a third-degree felony punishable upon conviction by up to 10 years in prison. Each was released after posting $5,000 bail, according to The Houston Chronicle. Police told the newspaper that money laundering charges are likely to follow after the investigation concludes. The newspaper said the couple, who have two small children, declined comment when contacted at their home Tuesday. It was not immediately known whether they had retained an attorney. The couple used a Web site to promote the ring, according to the court documents, which were posted on the Chronicle’s Web site. The site changed several times, the documents say, using names such as viviansfriends.com, houstongfe.org and houstongirlfriend.com. Deborah Turbiville used “Vivian” as her contact name, authorities said in the documents. Charles Turbiville helped manage the business. Prospective clients who contacted the business were given a form to fill out, and the Turbivilles used a “prostitution screening service” to check them out, as well as verifying their employment, the affidavit says.

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The fee for an “incall” appointment, at an apartment allegedly rented by the Turbivilles for such activities, was $250, according to the documents. An “outcall” appointment was $350 to certain Houston hotels; those farther away were more expensive. Cash and credit cards were accepted, the documents say, with the credit cards processed through PayPal, an Internet-based payment system. The Harris County sheriff had received a complaint regarding the apartment, presumably from a neighboring resident, alleging that prostitution was taking place there, the affidavit says. But the investigation began in October 2007, after a woman arrested in an unrelated case told police she had worked for Vivian’s Friends, calling it “the largest prostitution escort service operating in the city of Houston,” the affidavit says. The woman said the group recruited prostitutes through Internet ads. A female police officer met with Deborah Turbiville, pretending she was seeking work as a prostitute, the court documents say. During the meeting, which was recorded, the documents say, Turbiville told the officer she tried to keep the incall location “low key. There is never more than two or three people there and that’s for your security as well. I’ve done this for seven years, and we have never had a problem. But if there ever was a problem, you would not want to be in a situation where there is 10 people sitting there. It’s going to be a high-profile thing all over the news, you know, that kind of thing.” CNN affiliate KHOU, citing police, said Turbiville called herself the “Heidi Fleiss of Houston.” Fleiss was dubbed the “Hollywood Madam” for providing call girls to famous and wealthy clients. Authorities executed a search warrant at the Turbiville home and at the apartment, according to the court documents. At the couple’s home, they seized both the couple’s cars — a Chevrolet Tahoe and a Lexus — as well as more than $8,600 in cash, silver bars and coins, gold coins, computers and cell phones, among other items, the documents say, while the search at the apartment turned up business records and sexual paraphernalia including “assorted condoms and lubricants.” KHOU reported this week that police were attempting to match credit cards and computer records to clients of the ring.