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'D.C. Madam' found hanged

  • Story Highlights
  • Deborah Jeane Palfrey said last year she would never return to prison
  • Palfrey hanged herself on mother's property, police say
  • Suicide notes were found near the body, police say
  • Palfrey was convicted of running high-powered prostitution ring April 15
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(CNN) -- Deborah Jeane Palfrey, known as the "D.C. Madam," was found dead in Florida on Thursday, according to Tarpon Springs police.

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Deborah Jeane Palfrey was convicted of running a high-powered prostitution ring.

Palfrey hanged herself in a storage shed on her mother's property, where she had been staying, police said. Palfrey's mother, 76-year-old Blanche Palfrey, found the body, police said.

Palfrey was convicted April 15 in connection with a high-end prostitution ring catering to Washington's elite. She had said in interviews that she would kill herself before going to prison.

"Blanche Palfrey had awoken from a nap and began to search the residence for her daughter," police said. "When she went outside, she noticed a three-wheel bicycle had been moved that was normally kept in the shed." The older woman then saw her daughter's body hanging from a metal beam under the shed's roof, police said.

"The mother's obviously distraught," said Tarpon Springs police Capt. Jeffrey Young. "This is the hardest part in any type of situation like this, when you have a suicide. It's all the victims that are left behind."

Police earlier said "handwritten notes were found on scene that describes the victim's intention to take her life, and foul play does not appear to be involved."

The Pinellas County Medical Examiner's Office will determine the cause of death, police said. Video Watch police confirm death of "D.C. Madam" »

Palfrey's lawyers expressed sadness at news reports.

"I am devastated to hear about this," Montgomery Blair Sibley said before police confirmed the death.

Her court-appointed lawyer Preston Burton said, "This is tragic news. My heart goes out to her mother."

She was found guilty of money laundering, racketeering and mail fraud and faced a maximum 55-year prison term at her sentencing, scheduled for July 24.

Prosecutors estimated that she would have received a sentence between 57 and 71 months, about six years, because of sentencing guidelines and other factors that would have been taken into account.

"I'm looking at 55 years in a federal penitentiary, and at my age, that is virtually a life sentence," Palfrey told CNN Radio's Ninette Sosa in March. "Realistically, we estimate between eight and 15 years. I'm also looking at the complete forfeiture of my entire life savings and work."

She said the government "went after me. They found out that I'm not who they thought I was, and instead of dropping the whole matter they decided to press forward and, what the heck, she's a woman, she's weak, we'll intimidate her, we'll humiliate her, we'll pounce on this poor lady and she'll give in."

Palfrey told writer Dan Moldea, who was helping her write a book, that she would commit suicide rather than return to jail, according to Time magazine.

"She had done time once before [for prostitution]," Moldea told Time. "And it damn near killed her."

Palfrey had made similar comments to ABC News in 2007, saying, "I sure as heck am not going to be going to federal prison for one day, let alone, you know, four to eight years."

A spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office in Washington, which prosecuted Palfrey, said, "we extend our condolences to Ms. Palfrey's family."

At least one lawmaker, Louisiana Sen. David Vitter, a Republican, turned up in the phone records of her business, Pamela Martin & Associates.

State Department official Randall Tobias resigned in May 2007 after confirming that he patronized Palfrey's business.

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Palfrey argued her business was a legitimate, legal escort service.

"There's no violence, there's very little if any drug activity. There's very little if any fraud. Basically a bunch of benign women who want to make a living. This is not racketeering by any means -- this is running a business," she told CNN Radio in March. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

CNN's Paul Courson and Kevin Bohn and CNN Radio's Ninette Sosa contributed to this report.

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