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Maine Zumba instructor gets 10 months for prostitution

By Lorenzo Ferrigno, CNN
updated 11:29 AM EDT, Sun June 2, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • 29-year-old Zumba instructor was sentenced to 10 months in jail Friday
  • Alexis Wright pleaded guilty to a total of 20 misdemeanor charges
  • Charges ranged from theft to engaging in prostitution

New York (CNN) -- A 29-year-old Zumba instructor was sentenced to 10 months in jail Friday for engaging in prostitution out of her fitness studio in the picturesque town of Kennebunk, Maine.

In addition to the time in jail, Alexis Wright must pay more than $57,000 in restitution and $1,000 in fines, according to a sentencing memorandum.

Prosecutors dropped more than 80 other counts and downplayed the more serious tax related charges from felonies to misdemeanors, according to the sentencing documents.

Wright's lawyer Sarah Churchill told CNN Friday that the outcome was fair and that "it was also important to be able to close this phase, so that Alexis can move forward and begin to heal from all of this."

In court Friday, Wright said, "I am a person who knows the difference between right and wrong and for this reason I chose to take the time in jail to take responsibility for my actions."

Wright and her business partner, Mark Strong, sparked uproar in the quiet Maine town last year when a prostitution ring became public and a list of clients was released and spread around town.

On the list were lawyers, accountants, a local TV personality and many others, according to Strong's lawyer.

Court documents show Wright videotaped intimate encounters with some of her customers in three locations in the small picket-fenced community of 10,000 that is Kennebunk, including the store-front Zumba exercise studio run by Wright.

Zumba is, according to the brand's official website, "an exhilarating, effective, easy-to-follow, Latin-inspired, calorie-burning dance fitness-party that's moving millions of people toward joy and health."

Maine's State Police and the state's Drug Enforcement Administration began investigating the prostitution ring in 2011 after receiving a tip that there was more going on at the studio than a Latin dance fitness-party. In February 2012, Wright's Zumba studio was raided, as well as Strong's offices.

According to Strong's sentencing memo, Wright would not engage in a prostitution session unless Strong had "prior knowledge of the session and was actively watching via the Skype connection."

Over 13,000 Skype video call snapshots were recovered from Strong's computer, according to the memo.

Strong was found guilty of promotion of prostitution and conspiracy to promote prostitution in March, according to his court sentencing memo.

He was sentenced to 20 days in jail, according to court documents.

Through tears on Friday, Wright told the judge that she planned on helping other women who were in similar situations.

"The problem is that a situation like mine is happening every day all over the country and it seems as though everyone would rather turn a blind eye to it rather than see the ugly reality that it is," Wright said. "It is my intention to stand up for what is right and when I get out I am going to pursue helping people fight through situations similar to mine."

CNN's Adam Reiss, Deborah Feyerick and Michael Pearson contributed to this report.

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