Kraft Officially Charged With Solicitation Tied to Human Trafficking Ring

Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg didn't specifically discuss Kraft's case during a Monday press conference, in which he called human trafficking 'evil in our midst'

In this Feb. 3, 2019, file photo, New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft holds the Vince Lombardi trophy after the NFL Super Bowl 53 football game against the Los Angeles Rams, in Atlanta.
AP Photo/Mark Humphrey, File

New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft was charged with first-degree solicitation of a prostitute in Florida on Monday.

Kraft has a court date scheduled for April 24. He doesn't need to appear, and a lawyer can represent him instead. 

Kraft is one of 25 individuals facing similar charges in connection with an investigation into a Florida spa allegedly tied to an international human trafficking ring. Kraft, 77, is facing two counts of misdemeanor solicitation connected to a sting at a massage parlor in Jupiter, Fla.

According to court documents, one of Kraft's visit to Orchids of Asia Day Spa in Jupiter was on Jan. 20, prior to the Patriots playing the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC Championship Game in Missouri. Kraft allegedly visited the spa on two occasions, according to law enforcement.

Orchids of Asia Day Spa is among the 10 massage parlors shut down in the region after a long investigation showed the women in the spas were sex servants, authorities said.

Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg didn't specifically discuss Kraft's case during a Monday press conference, in which he called human trafficking "evil in our midst."

Earlier Monday, the NFL released an updated statement on the status of the pillar of the New England franchise.

"Our personal conduct policy applies to everyone in the NFL. We will handle this allegation in the same way we would handle any issue under our policy. We are seeking a full understanding of the facts, while ensuring that we do not interfere with an ongoing law enforcement investigation. We will take appropriate action as warranted based on the facts," read the NFL statement.

Kraft and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell have had a frosty relationship at times, notably during the infamous Deflategate investigation that led to a four-game suspension for quarterback Tom Brady, but they also powered the labor negotiations and CBA deal signed with players amid a lockout in 2011.

If convicted of the misdemeanor charges, Kraft would face a maximum of 60 days in jail and a $500 fine as a first-time offender. He also could be subject to disciplinary action by the NFL.

Police said Kraft, who owns a home in nearby West Palm Beach, was seen at the spa in Jupiter on Jan. 19 and that he "was positively identified by Massachusetts driver's license."

According to police, video surveillance caught Kraft arriving at the spa the following day at 10:59 a.m. ET -- the day of the AFC title game -- and said he paid cash to an "Asian female."

Police said Kraft pulled up at the spa in a blue 2015 Bentley and was dressed in blue shorts, a dark long-sleeved shirt and a blue baseball cap.

Hidden cameras in the room displayed an encounter that lasted less than 15 minutes. The woman helped Kraft get dressed and Kraft gave her at least $100, according to police.

Kraft, who also owns the New England Revolution MLS franchise, denied the accusations on Friday afternoon.

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

The NFL and MLS also released statements Friday afternoon.

"The NFL is aware of the ongoing law enforcement matter and will continue to monitor developments," the league said.

The MLS had a similar comment.

"Major League Soccer is aware of reports regarding the case in Florida and will continue to follow any developments," according to its statement.