A veteran sports reporter for New Hampshire's largest newspaper was charged Wednesday with running a prostitution ring in two states and Canada that employed women who "auditioned" for the job by having sex with him.
Longtime New Hampshire Union Leader sports writer Kevin Provencher, 50, is accused of advertising his prostitution ring's services on Craigslist and other Web sites.
He rented hotel rooms in Andover, Mass., and in New Hampshire — where the women would have sex for money, prosecutors said.
Provencher allegedly met the women at a Manchester hotel to "audition" them, the Union Leader said. He is accused of giving one woman lingerie, having sex with her and then telling her she was hired, the newspaper reported, citing court documents.
Provencher, a sports reporter at the Union Leader for more than two decades, was arrested at his Manchester home early Wednesday and was taken to Massachusetts, where he was ordered held on $10,000 cash bail during his arraignment in Lawrence District Court.
He pleaded not guilty to two counts of deriving support from prostitution.
The ring may have operated in Canada, prosecutors said. They call Provencher its ringleader.
Essex Assistant District Attorney Michelle Defeo told the Union Leader that Provencher performed background checks on prospective customers to make sure they weren't police officers, then would rent hotel rooms and provide the women with contact information for the clients.
At the end of the day, the women would give Provencher half the money they earned or would deposit it an account he set up, Defeo said.
Police, who said they believe the operation started about a year ago, began investigating after management at the Spring Hill Suites hotel in Andover became suspicious and called authorities.
Police said they set up a sting operation at the hotel on June 11 and saw men entering and leaving a room. Defeo said law enforcement authorities "could clearly hear activities consistent with sexual intercourse," the Union Leader reported.
Provencher has been suspended from the newspaper, where he has been its primary motor sports reporter since 1990. He also has been the Union Leader's beat reporter covering the Manchester Monarchs since the American Hockey League franchise's 2001 inception.
The newspaper's management issued a statement calling Provencher "a valued employee for many years."
"He is innocent until proven guilty," it said. "However, given the nature and seriousness of the charges, he is suspended until further notice."
Provencher's lawyer, Jessica Thrall, did not immediately return a telephone call seeking comment Wednesday.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.