John Gillespie, a criminal defense lawyer in Melbourne, Florida, was arrested in a law enforcement sting operation over the weekend for using his legal practice to recruit young female clients into a prostitution ring that he ran out of his home.
And you thought “Better Call Saul” was disillusioning…
The Orlando Metropolitan Bureau of Investigation found evidence that Gillespie “would initiate women he represented on criminal charges into prostitution or exchange sex acts for legal fees.” A former law firm employee tipped off the agency, explaining that she had helped Gillespie recruit women and girls into sex trafficking.
“John Gillespie became a known source of prostitutes, and began getting a steady stream of prostitution customers,” the agency said in a press release. “John Gillespie and the [confidential informant] would get prostitution customers by going to high tourist areas and handing out business cards.”
That’s pimp business cards, not his lawyer cards. Handing out lawyer cards can be unethical in Florida.
Thus enlightened, agents received wire-tapping authorization to listen in on Gillespie’s phone calls. They concluded that he was operating a prostitution ring, and often had sex with the juveniles he advertised as prostitutes. The lawyer posted ads on an escort website to attract several girls who he had live at his home. Gillespie created leverage over the young women by keeping them in debt for his legal fees, back rent for staying at his home, and for drugs.
To be fair, other than the sex trafficking, the extortion, the drugs and the coerced sex with minors, Gillespie appears to be an excellent attorney.
The sting developed after Gillespie instructed his employee-turned informant to set up a meeting with a 16-year-old girl. She was supposed to be instructed to never disclose her real age to him in order to give him a defense against sex with a minor charges, and that if she was to ever get arrested, she should not involve him because that would prevent him from being able to represent her.
See? He knew his bar’s conflict of interests rules!
In a particularly icky exchange, the informant told Gillespie that the 16-year-old he was meeting had been sexually molested. The 71 year-old lawyer replied, “Well, she is my type..”
Gillespie met the informant in the parking lot of the Hilton Garden Inn Orlando Airport. After texting the girl, who was really an undercover agent, he was taken by the informant to a hotel room, where the lawyer planned on paying the teen $100 for sex and convincing her to live at his home. Gillespie was arrested in the room and charged with human trafficking for commercial sexual activity with a child under 18, violating the Racketeering Influenced Corrupt Organization Act, conspiracy to commit racketeering and unlawful use of a two-way communication device.
It should come as no surprise that he denies doing anything wrong, and claims he was just trying to help the girl who turned out to be an undercover agent. Entrapment!
“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.”
This story is mind-boggling, all right.