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No prison for former police captain in Shriners Jesters Freemasons prostitution case

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WIVB TV - Buffalo, NY

No prison for former police captain

John Trowbridge returned to court for sentencing

Wednesday, 06 May 2009

Lorey Schultz

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) - A former police captain got caught taking a prostitute across state lines. Now he's learning his fate.

With his wife by his side, former Lockport Police Captain John Trowbridge returned to United States District Court for sentencing.

He won't go to prison, but will spend the next two years on probation for his role in a prostitution ring. He must also register as a sex offender.

His attorney felt the sentence was appropriate.

Trowbridge's attorney David Douglas said, "He had come to a point where he was sincerely remorseful and guilt ridden about his actions and participation in these events, and I think he almost welcomed the chance to get it off his chest."

Trowbridge was arrested last year, along with former State Supreme Court Judge Ronald Tills and his former legal clerk Michael Stebick, for transporting prostitutes across state lines for events sponsored by the Royal Order of Jesters.

Trowbridge fought back tears in court when he told the judge about his lapse in judgement.

Douglas said, "He fell in a couple of traps people fall into with issues involving prostitution. He had the misperception that it was a victimless crime, and that's not the case at all."

"The people caught in these situations, in this case Asian immigrants, are victims."

Retired Judge Tills is scheduled to appear in court Thursday for a status report on his case. Federal agents say all three men have been cooperative as the investigation continues into prostitution activities at other Jesters Events.

Trowbrige declined comment after court.

Douglas said, "He's retired, will continue to live a mundane life which I think he'll welcome after this experience."

Under federal sentencing guidelines, the judge could have sent Trowbridge to prison for up to six months. He said he gave him probation because the retired police officer cooperated with the probe.

News 4 will find out Thursday morning what the status is on the Tills case. He had been scheduled for sentencing.

WIVB TV - Buffalo, NY

Trowbridge Sentencing Press Release

Wednesday, 06 May 2009

Kathleen M. Mehltretter, Acting U.S. Attorney for the Western District of New York, announced today that JOHN TROWBRIDGE, 62, a retired Detective with the City of Lockport Police Department from Lockport, New York, was sentenced this morning by United States District Judge William M. Skretny to 2 years Probation and fined $10,000 for knowingly transporting a female in interstate commerce with the intent that the female engage in prostitution (Mann Act). Trowbridge had waived Indictment and pled guilty to this offense on March 20, 2008.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert C. Moscati, who handled the prosecution, stated the defendant admitted that in late October 2005, he, Ronald Tills, a former New York State Supreme Court Judge, Michael Stebick, an former Confidential Law Clerk to Judge Tills, and others, transported a woman from the Western New York area to Kentucky and intended for the woman to engage in prostitution in Kentucky with members of a men's organization known as the Royal Order of Jesters.

Mr. Trowbridge and the other individuals were members of the Buffalo, NY chapter of the Jesters. Trowbridge admitted that the Jesters held weekend meetings where it was their custom to make women available to the members for sexual activities in exchange for money. Trowbridge and Stebick have now been sentenced for their roles in this illegal conduct and Tills' sentencing is pending. Len Wah Chong, the owner of the "acupressure spa" where the woman Trowbridge transported was employed, was sentenced on November 18, 2008 to 6 years imprisonment and ordered to pay 10 trafficking victims $350,000 after her conviction of a commercial sex trafficking offense for operating 4 area "acupressure spas" or massage parlors, now closed, which were fronts for prostitution.

At the sentencing, AUSA Moscati, the Leader of the District's Human Trafficking Task Force and Alliance, stated to the Court that the Task Force existed in large part to rescue the victims of these type of crimes. Moscati noted, in response to the defendant's statement that he had tried to help an employee of the "spa" whom he told was free to leave if she so desired, that such women do not believe they have such a choice due to certain characteristics and vulnerabilities which traffickers try to exploit. In many cases these women owe large amounts of money to smugglers or their employers, may not speak our language, fear law enforcement due to the potential of deportation and are from cultures where mistrust of public officials is the norm. Moscati also told the Court that while Mr. Trowbridge immediately admitted his involvement and provided substantial assistance to the Government in its investigation and in the prosecution of others, the Government by no means considered him a Saint and urged the Court to balance the rights of the victims with the defendant's assistance when confronted by law enforcement.

Acting U.S. Attorney Mehltretter commended the work of the District's Human Trafficking Task Force and Alliance (HTTFA), which investigated this matter. In November 2006, the Attorney General announced the creation of this task force in the Western District of New York, one of 42 nationwide. The HTTFA is a collaboration of local, state and federal law enforcement agencies 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 this District, through aggressive investigation, prosecution, training, education and outreach to law enforcement, non-government organizations, vulnerable and affected persons and the general public.

The joint investigation by the Task Force included the participation of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Laurie Bennett; the United States Border Patrol, under the direction of Chief Patrol Agent Kevin Oaks; Department of Homeland Security, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Lev J. Kubiak; and the Erie County Sheriff's Office, under the direction of Sheriff Timothy Howard.

Further Reading:

Pillars of the Community

The Royal Order of Jesters - The Shriners Secret Society Secret Society - 'Mirth is King'

The Shriners - The 'Krafty' Klowns