Police in Florida are charging New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft with misdemeanor solicitation of prostitution, saying they have videotape of him paying for a sex act inside an illicit massage parlor.
"He is one of the individuals, that would be Mr. Robert Kraft," Jupiter Police Chief Daniel Kerr said at a press conference Friday morning announcing 25 arrests as part of a prostitution crackdown centering on the Orchids of Asia Day Spa in Jupiter, Florida.
The 77-year-old NFL owner is being charged with two counts of soliciting another to commit prostitution based on two separate visits. The charges are misdemeanors.
"We're as equally stunned as everybody else," Kerr said of the allegation that Kraft was paying for sex inside a strip mall massage parlor.
Police said details about the charges against Kraft will not be released until next week.
Kraft will not need to appear in Florida court since this is a misdemeanor charge, according to Jupiter police.
The Patriots won the Super Bowl earlier this month in Atlanta, the team's sixth championship during Kraft's ownership. The team did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
A spokesperson for Kraft released a statement Friday, saying, "We categorically deny that Mr. Kraft engaged in any illegal activity. Because it is a judicial matter, we will not be commenting further."
Patriots safety Devin McCourty gave his support to his team's owner, but also said he would wait to learn more.
"I think, when you see things come out like that, you always just got to let it play out, see what it is, what it isn't, and go from there," McCourty said. "But for me, RKK's been a great person for me to lean on, as far as the social justice stuff, a guy to talk to, always present in the locker room, always there to talk to guys. So I've had the opportunity to build that kind of a relationship with him."
The sting in Jupiter was part of a widespread crackdown on sex trafficking in the area surrounding Palm Beach County. About 200 arrest warrants have been issued in recent days, and more are expected. Officials said some of the victims were averaging eight clients a day, which amounts to about 1,500 men a year.
Police said the times that Kraft visited the spa, he was driven by another person. That person's name has not been released but will be included in the probable cause affidavit.
Detective Andrew Sharp, the lead detective on the case, said he could not provide an exact dollar amount that Kraft paid, but there is a specific number for different time frames.
He said the price for 30 minutes was $59, and $79 for an hour. Sharp said he couldn't say how long Kraft was there or how he paid.
He said video obtained by police showed the sexual act with every person who was arrested.
"The question was, does the video contain Mr. Kraft inside receiving the alleged acts. The answer to that is yes," Sharp said in response to a reporter's queston.
Kraft has not yet been arrested. As he is not a Florida resident, police said a warrant will be issued for his arrest. Police said they have not had contact with Kraft.
Kraft, who was born in Brookline, Massachusetts, has owned the Patriots since January of 1994 and founded the New England Revolution soccer team in 1996.
He made his initial fortune in paper manufacturing and currently serves as chairman and CEO of the Kraft Group, the holding company for his family's many businesses. His net worth has been estimated at more than $6 billion.
Kraft's wife Myra Hiatt died in 2011. He has been dating 39-year-old actress Ricki Noel Lander since 2012.
He is considered one of the most influential owners in the NFL, serving on the Finance Committee, Compensation Committee, NFL Network Committee, and the Management Council Executive Committee. He was the chairman of the Media Committee.
“The NFL is aware of the ongoing law enforcement matter and will continue to monitor developments," the league said in a statement Friday afternoon, according to the NFL Network's Ian Rapoport.
The league's personal conduct policy stresses that all NFL personnel, including players and team owners, "must refrain from 'conduct detrimental to the integrity of and public confidence in' the NFL."
Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker issued a statement Friday calling the allegations "deeply disturbing" and condemning "all acts of sexual exploitation."
Patriots fans reacted with disbelief upon hearing the news.
"I think that we're all innocent until proven guilty, so that's what I think," one fan outside Gillette Stadium said. "If it's true, it's disappointing, but that's business and that's what the courts are for and police. It just hit the news, but I don't know, man."
"I am surprised by that," another fan said. "I am surprised, absolutely. It stinks, you know. It's a let down."