Robert Kraft, owner of NFL champion Patriots, charged in prostitution sting

Robert Kraft, owner of NFL champion Patriots, charged in prostitution sting
FILE PHOTO: New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft in attendance at a press conference in advance of Super Bowl LIII at Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S., January 30, 2019. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports Copyright USA TODAY USPW(Reuters)
Copyright USA TODAY USPW(Reuters)
By Reuters
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By Joseph Ax

(Reuters) - Robert Kraft, the owner of the NFL Super Bowl champion New England Patriots, was charged with two counts of soliciting a prostitute in a police sting on a Jupiter, Florida, massage parlor, police said on Friday.

Kraft, 77, is among more than two dozen people charged in the investigation, which was focused on possible human trafficking, Jupiter police Chief Robert Kerr said.

Among the 25 people taken into custody were the two proprietors of Orchids of Asia Day Spa, police said.

Authorities have gathered video evidence showing the acts in question for each suspect, including Kraft, police officials said. Kraft, who was charged with two misdemeanors, is accused of visiting the business on two separate occasions to solicit sex.

A spokesman for Kraft and the Patriots, Aaron Salkin, said in a statement, "We categorically deny that Mr. Kraft engaged in any illegal activity. Because it is a judicial matter, we will not be commenting further."

A spokesman for the National Football League did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Kraft, who made his fortune buying out and building up his father-in-law's product-packaging business, is worth $6.6 billion (5.05 billion pounds), according to Forbes magazine.

His wife of many decades, Myra Hiatt Kraft, died in 2011 of ovarian cancer. He has not remarried.

A police detective, Andrew Sharp, told reporters that he could not speak to the specifics of any individual's financial transactions but that in general, services at the spa cost $59 for a half hour and $79 for an hour.

Since Kraft bought the Patriots 25 years ago, the team has become the most successful franchise in the National Football League, appearing in 10 Super Bowls and winning six titles, including Super Bowl LIII on Feb. 3.

Kraft's influence in the football world has grown steadily since he purchased the Patriots, to the point that he is widely considered one of the NFL's most powerful and influential owners.

Kraft, a Democrat, is nevertheless a close friend and supporter of U.S. President Donald Trump, a Republican. Before this month's Super Bowl, Trump said on "Face the Nation" that he would be backing his longtime friend Kraft to win.

In 1994, Kraft, a Boston native, bought the Patriots for $172 million, considered a lofty sum for a team that had been mired in mediocrity for years.

The team is now worth nearly $4 billion, thanks in large part to its extraordinary success on the field under the leadership of quarterback Tom Brady and head coach Bill Belichick.

(Reporting by Joseph Ax in New York; additional reporting by Letitia Stein in Tampa, Florida and Jonathan Allen and Peter Szekely in New York; editing by Grant McCool)

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