Robert Kraft, the owner of the NFL Super Bowl champion New England Patriots, was charged with solicitation as part of a prostitution bust in Jupiter, Florida, on Friday, local media reported, citing police officials.
The Genesis Prize Foundation announced in January that Kraft, a prominent Jewish philanthropist, would receive the 2019 Genesis Prize, also known as the "Jewish Nobel."
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is supposed to present the $1-million award to Kraft during a ceremony in Jerusalem in June. In keeping with tradition, Kraft will donate the money to a cause of his choice – "initiatives combatting anti-Semitism and other forms of prejudice as well as attempts to de-legitimize the State of Israel." The foundation wrote that Kraft has "spoken out publicly and donated generously" to such organizations.
Two proprietors of Orchids of Asia Day Spa were arrested on Tuesday along with 25 people in the local and state investigation, which was focused on possible human trafficking, Jupiter police Chief Robert Kerr said.
Authorities have gathered video evidence to support the charges for each person, Kerr said. Kraft 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."
Kraft, 77, chairman and CEO of the Kraft Group – a holding company with assets in paper, packaging, real estate and sports teams – is a large-scale philanthropist who has donated heavily to Jewish and Israeli causes, as well as $1 million to U.S. President Donald Trump's inauguration.
Before this month's Super Bowl, Trump said on "Face the Nation" that he would be backing his good friend and long time supporter Kraft to win.
The Genesis Prize was established by Mikhail Fridman and other wealthy Russian-Jewish businessmen and operates in a partnership with Israel’s Prime Minister’s Office and the Jewish Agency for Israel. The award "honors extraordinary individuals for their outstanding professional achievement, contribution to humanity, and commitment to Jewish values and Israel," according to the foundation.
Last year's ceremony was mired in controversy and was ultimately canceled after recipient Natalie Portman said she would not take part in light of "recent events."
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