Published: February 6, 2009
The former tax specialist, Mark Brener, 63, apologized to anyone he had hurt, and both he and his lawyer asked for leniency.
But the judge, Denny Chin of United States District Court in Manhattan, said he was not moved by their plea, including the lawyer’s suggestion that Mr. Brener’s crime had had no victims.
“I certainly don’t believe that prostitution is a victimless crime,” Judge Chin said. “It’s certainly my view that a number of people are significantly hurt by this.”
Prosecutors said that Mr. Brener was the organizer of the ring, Emperor’s Club V.I.P., which the government said generated enormous profits that he then laundered using a set of bank accounts opened in the names of fictitious businesses.
“Brener’s conduct warrants substantial punishment,” Daniel L. Stein, an assistant United States attorney, told the judge in court papers.
In seeking leniency, Mr. Brener’s lawyer, Murray Richman, said in court that his client had spent almost 11 months in prison, was not a threat to the community and had acknowledged his guilt.
“It’s his responsibility,” Mr. Richman said, “and he takes full responsibility.”
Mr. Brener pleaded guilty last June, and at the time, both sides conceded that a sentence of 2 to 2 ½ years would be reasonable, according to an agreement they signed. In recent court papers, however, Mr. Richman asked that the judge impose “time served.”
Prosecutors had told the judge that when Mr. Brener was arrested, the authorities seized $981,000 in cash in an apartment he shared with another defendant in the case, as well as $180,000 in the ring’s bank accounts.
But Mr. Richman said his client “didn’t live the high life.”
“He lived in a one-bedroom apartment in New Jersey,” Mr. Richman told the judge, adding that Mr. Brener had kept his money in a garbage bag.
When asked if he wanted to speak, Mr. Brener took a few moments to compose himself, appearing to choke away tears. Citing his imprisonment, he said he had used the time away from his family and from society “to learn from my mistakes.”
“As a man of my age,” he said, “I know now that I do not have any more time to waste, and I will not violate the law again.”
Judge Chin cited as factors Mr. Brener’s role as “the head of the Emperor’s Club,” and the fact it had operated for a number of years.
“Mr. Brener recruited women to become prostitutes, and he controlled the business,” the judge said.
Mr. Spitzer resigned on March 12, two days after his involvement with the ring was disclosed. He was not charged.