Patriots owner Robert Kraft charged with soliciting prostitution in sting at Florida parlor

New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft holds the Lombardi Trophy and waves to fans during the Super Bowl LIII championship parade Feb. 5, 2019. Stew Milne / USA TODAY Sports
New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft holds the Lombardi Trophy and waves to fans during the Super Bowl LIII championship parade Feb. 5, 2019. Stew Milne / USA TODAY SportsStew Milne / USA TODAY Sports

JUPITER, Fla. - Robert Kraft, the owner of the NFL Super Bowl champion New England Patriots, was charged with soliciting prostitution at a massage parlor in Jupiter as part of a police sting operation, authorities said on Friday, Feb. 22

Kraft, 77, a billionaire businessman who built the Patriots into the NFL's most dominant franchises, was swept up in a broader investigation into sex trafficking in day spas and massage parlors in several Florida counties. The Miami Herald reported that authorities have arrested hundreds of people and raided numerous businesses over the past two weeks.

Authorities have video evidence supporting the charges, police officials said. Kraft, who lives in Massachusetts but owns property in Palm Beach, Fla., is accused of visiting Orchids of Asia Day Spa in Jupiter 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, according to Forbes magazine.

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

The investigation's lead 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.

The Orchids of Asia Day Spa was rated three stars on the crowd-sourced review website Yelp.com, where some customers praised the service provider for its masseuses. Others complained about receiving poor massages and being bullied into giving high tips.

One reviewer in 2015 said they recommended the spa to a male friend, who was offered a "happy ending."

"This is NOT the town to act like this and it's a family area," the user wrote on the website. "I'm reporting you to the board and I pray you get shut down!"

The spa's website advertises body treatments, facials and massages, such as the "Tokyo Ultimate 4 Hand."

Since Kraft bought the Patriots 25 years ago, the team has become the most successful franchise in the NFL, 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.

He is a close friend and supporter of 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.