Criminal Justice

Lawyer is accused of recruiting clients into prostitution ring he ran from his home

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A 71-year-old criminal defense lawyer in Melbourne, Florida, was arrested Saturday for allegedly using his legal practice to recruit clients into a prostitution ring that he ran out of his home.

The lawyer, John Gillespie, was arrested in a sting operation, report, the Orlando Sentinel, the Miami Herald and WESH.

An April 20 press release is here.

Gillespie ran unsuccessfully to be the Orange-Osceola public defender as a Republican in 2004.

The Orlando Metropolitan Bureau of Investigation cited evidence that Gillespie “would initiate women he represented on criminal charges into prostitution or exchange sex acts for legal fees.”

The agency began investigating after a former law firm employee said she had helped Gillespie recruit women and girls into sex trafficking, according to an arrest warrant cited by the Orlando Sentinel.

Gillespie thought he was meeting a 16-year-old girl in the parking lot of the Hilton Garden Inn Orlando Airport when he was arrested, according to the Orlando Sentinel.

He allegedly planned to pay her $100 for sex and recruit her to live at his home; she was actually an undercover agent, according to the press release by Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody.

Gillespie had posted ads for several girls who lived at his home on an escort website.

“Gillespie then held leverage over the girls by keeping them in debt for legal fees, rent for staying at his residence, or for drugs provided before or after dates set with men through the posted ads,” the press release says.

Gillespie was arrested on charges of human trafficking of a minor, racketeering, conspiracy to commit racketeering and unlawful use of a two-way communication device.

In an initial court appearance, Gillespie denied doing anything wrong. He said he was just trying to help the girl who turned out to be an undercover agent, according to WESH.

“I went there to help that girl try to find a place to live. That’s what I was suckered into going there for,” he said. “The texts that I sent that girl at that hotel when I agreed that I would go there, the text said that I don’t care if she doesn’t trust me, if she needs a place to stay, I will try to help her. I do not want anything from her. And how they can get I want to have sex with the girl from that, I don’t want anything from her. It just boggles my mind.”

Gillespie is being held on no bond at the Orange County Jail, according to WESH.

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