New York lawyer 'took brothel' from the 'King of all Pimps'

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The Independent US

When Natalie McLennan, Manhattan's most expensive prostitute, appeared on the cover of New York magazine, she caused a sensation with the sad tale of her romance with Jason Itzler, the self-styled King of All Pimps. The affair had unfortunately been interrupted by a police raid on the luxurious brothel the pair ran and the subsequent incarceration of her boyfriend.

But, it now turns out, the arrival of the authorities did not shut down the NY Confidential call-girl business immediately; the city's gossip rags have been abuzz with revelations in the sex scandal that keeps on giving.

As Itzler was sentenced to 18 months to three years in prison last week, prosecutors took the remarkable step of charging his lawyer - one of the toughest defence attorneys - with taking over the business, keeping on the call girls and laundering the profits.

Local tabloids have described Paul Bergrin, 51, as the "babe-brokering barrister", which makes a change from the more unkind epithets given when he took on unpopular cases, such as defending a US soldier accused in the Abu Ghraib prison abuse scandal and another accused of killing three Iraqi men.

Mr Bergrin, a retired army reserve officer with a wife and two children, is expected to surrender himself to the New York authorities in the next few days.

Itzler - never one to shy from an opportunity for publicity - has already got his theory out there, telling journalists that Mr Bergrin had reasons other than greed for wanting to make sure NY Confidential did not go out of business.

Mr Bergrin, he says, had long enjoyed the perks of his work for Itzler. As well as pocketing $5,000 a week for allegedly helping launder the profits from NY Confidential, the lawyer and his friends had enjoyed free sessions with the $1,000-an-hour escorts.

"He got addicted to sex with all these hot girls, and this was the only way to keep feeding his addiction," Itzler told the New York Post.

Authorities say Bergrin and two other men took over NY Confidential's operations after Itzler's arrest two years ago, first relocating them from the 5,000-square-foot lower Manhattan loft raided by police to more modest premises in a Midtown one-bedroom.

They took in more than $1.2m (£600,000) in prostitution proceeds in one stretch in 2005 and laundered the money through two shell companies, prosecutors said.

But business went downhill fast, particularly when Mr Bergrin and his friends used the profits to pay for their own sessions with the escorts. Itzler, smarting from the betrayal, says he is not surprised: "You can't think with your penis in this business."

Itzler's own downfall was not the result of poor financial sense, but rather questionable common sense. In an industry where discretion is the better part of value, the 39-year-old pimp had promoted NY Confidential with his very public showmanship. He boasted of raking in as much as $800,000 a month, and splashed his money on Cartier jewellery and luxury cars. His business card promised NY Confidential provided "rocket fuel for winners".

When he boasted to a New York tabloid in December 2004 that he was untouchable because "I have the cops on my side", the authorities decided they had to act. He was arrested and put on remand in prison until last week.

Now out on parole, the showman is back - minus Ms McLennan now, though. He plans to launch an internet dating service - dating, you hear; all above board - and hopes to get a publishing deal for his racy memoir, Sex Sells: The Legend of Jason Itzler. The revelations of the past few days, and the courtroom drama to come with Mr Bergrin, might just make a publisher take notice.