McLEAN, Va. – A woman accused of running a Washington-area prostitution ring detailed her business in a highly anticipated TV interview Friday night but identified no new well-known clients.
Deborah Jeane Palfrey supplied the ABC newsmagazine "20/20" with 46 pounds of phone records from her escort service, Pamela Martin and Associates, in hopes that its investigation would ferret out clients who would testify that they did not have sex with the women Palfrey employed.
Some of the phone records could be tracked to prominent business executives, NASA officials, at least five military officers and exclusive neighborhood mansions, according to the ABC report. But there were no members of Congress or White House officials traced through Palfrey's records, the network reported.
Palfrey, 51, of Vallejo, Calif., is charged in federal court with racketeering and money laundering associated with prostitution. She said she ran the business, Pamela Martin and Associates, from her laundry room, and that the women who worked for her signed contracts in which they promised not to have sex with clients.
"These were not cheap women. These were very nice women who just needed to make a few extra dollars," Palfrey said.
Palfrey did identify one of her escorts, a former university professor who committed suicide after being charged with prostitution.
Palfrey maintained the business was legitimate.
"I was selling fantasy sex," Palfrey said.
The Washington escort service carried out its business undetected at some of the city's most exclusive hotels, she said. The service charged a flat rate of $275 for 90 minutes, she said.
The most prominent client of Palfrey's business was senior State Department official Randall Tobias, who resigned from his post last week after ABC confronted him about his use of the service. He previously directed international AIDS relief programs for the Bush administration that promote abstinence and require grant recipients to sign a pledge opposing prostitution.
Tobias has said he obtained massages but denied having sex with the escorts.
In court papers last month and again in Friday's interview, Palfrey named Harlan Ullman, known as an author of the "shock and awe" combat strategy, as a regular customer. Ullman's attorney, Marc Mukasey, said Friday before the interview aired that Palfrey should not assume that Ullman will give helpful testimony on her behalf. He declined to elaborate.
On Thursday, a lawyer for Palfrey said an instructor at the U.S. Naval Academy was one of the service's escorts and ABC reported that a secretary at a prominent law firm was another escort.
Montgomery Blair Sibley, Palfrey's civil attorney, confirmed a report in the Navy Times that an academy instructor worked as an independent contractor for Palfrey's service. Sibley said he didn't know whether the person is still at the academy.
An academy spokeswoman said she had no information about Sibley's claim.
ABC said a legal secretary at the Akin Gump law firm was suspended after telling her bosses that she had been secretly working as one of Palfrey's escorts. ABC did not name the woman, who told Akin Gump she expects to be a government witness in the case.
Palfrey told ABC that most of her escorts worked for her because they needed the money. Palfrey said she urged the women who answered her newspaper and phone book ads to think seriously before signing up.
"Many of these girls had never done this kind of work before," Palfrey said.
Palfrey said some of the most popular women were in their 50s. She said that there was never an age limit, and that most of the women worked about three shifts a week, ending each night at 11 p.m.
"I made sure they either worked or went to school in the daytime," she said.
Palfrey, who was sentenced to 18 months in a California prison in 1991 after pleading guilty to attempted pimping, said she rejected an offer in the current case to plead guilty to reduced charges in return for a four-month prison term.
Palfrey and the Internet radio station wsRadio.com will auction tapes of five one-hour interviews with her next week, The Washington Post reported Friday. Bids will start at $5,000.
The station's president, Chris Murch, declined to disclose details of the contract to the newspaper but said Palfrey will donate 10 percent of the proceeds to charity.