Ex-deputy charged in Jesters case
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June 09, 2010, 12:30 am
By Dan Herbeck NEWS STAFF REPORTER
Federal prosecutors charged a former Erie County sheriff’s deputy with taking prostitutes across state lines five years ago to attend a convention of a fraternal club.
Michael Lesinski, who retired from police work in November 2008, is the latest person charged in a government probe into human-trafficking activities involving the Royal Order of Jesters.
Lesinski made arrangements for a limousine to transport at least a dozen prostitutes from Buffalo Niagara International Airport in Cheektowaga to a hotel in Niagara Falls, Ont., in April 2005, according to charges filed by the U. S. attorney’s office.
Niagara Falls was the site of a Jesters convention — known as a “book” — for Jesters from across the United States, FBI Special Agent Jennifer Amo said in court papers.
Retired State Supreme Court Justice Ronald H. Tills—who is now in prison — was in charge of transportation for the event, Amo said.
“This transportation was for [Jesters] members and the ‘Jester Girls’ [prostitutes],” Amo said in court papers. “Tills delegated that duty to Michael Lesinski, a member of the [Jesters] and then an active deputy sheriff with the Erie County Sheriff’s Department.”
Amo also said witnesses had told her that Tills was involved in recruiting “Jester Girls” for events in several cities.
Lesinski is charged with conspiring to violate the Mann Act, a federal law that prohibits transporting people across state lines for prostitution.
The former road deputy, who was with the Sheriff’s Office for 21 years, is expected to appear before Magistrate Judge
H. Kenneth Schroeder Jr. this afternoon for arraignment.
Rodney O. Personius, Lesinski’s attorney, said his client will plead not guilty.
“I’d have to say that I’m surprised, disappointed and confounded by the decision to move forward on this case at this time,” Personius added. “The government has known about this incident for a very long time.”
The Buffalo News reported in May 2008 that the Western New York Human Trafficking Task Force was investigating two deputies.
Law enforcement officials said the inquiry focused on deputies who assisted with travel arrangements for prostitutes from the Buffalo area to Jesters events in other cities.
Authorities declined to comment on the status of the other deputy who was under investigation.