Academic Arrested In Prostitution Sting
Friday, January 20, 2006
Brandy M. Britton has worked for years to build up her résumé -- doctorate from the University of California at San Francisco, sociology professor at the University of Maryland in Baltimore County, director of the Institute for Women and Girls Health Research Inc.
But Howard County vice officers say she was also developing a résumé of a much different sort: The 41-year-old mother of two is accused of running a prostitution service from her Ellicott City home under the alias Alexis. According to charging documents, Britton advertised her services and rates on a Web site.
Reporters camped out around her beige two-story colonial yesterday in a quiet cul-de-sac in the 10000 block of Shirley Meadow Court in Ellicott City. She called a reporter from inside her home to deny the allegations.
"The charges are not valid at all," she said, refusing to elaborate, on advice from her attorney. "They're ridiculous."
Police began investigating Britton 10 months ago after receiving complaints about her Web site, which was shut down yesterday. This week, a police officer working undercover made an appointment with her. According to charging documents, Britton opened the door and led the officer to an upstairs bedroom. She told him to undress and place $400 on a table by the door. After leaving the marked police bills, the officer went to the front door and let other officers inside to arrest Britton, according to documents.
Police found 150 condoms and other pieces of evidence, the documents said. Officers also removed several business records that they say tie her to the Web site and prostitution, the documents said. Yesterday, Howard County police spokeswoman Sherry Llewellyn declined to say what those records included.
"This is certainly unusual," Llewellyn said. "The Web site really aided the investigators in tracking the suspect down and learning about the kinds of activities she was conducting inside her home."
Police charged Britton with "engaging in prostitution, maintaining a building for the purpose of prostitution, allowing a building to be used for prostitution and allowing a person into a building for the purpose of prostitution." Each charge carries a penalty of up to one year in jail or a fine of $500 or both sanctions.
The Web site that police say Britton ran included pictures of a blond woman in erotic poses and in various states of undress. The woman's face was concealed by pixilation. The site advertised massages and included a disclaimer that any fees were for modeling and companionship, not sex.
Most of Britton's neighbors declined to talk about her yesterday, saying only that she was a nice woman whose daughter visited from college occasionally. They also said she had two pet pigs. Neighbor Bonnie Sorak said that she often saw "nice" cars in Britton's driveway and that most of the visitors she saw were men. Sorak said she was surprised by the allegations. "I think it's very sad that someone would be in that position for whatever reason."
Britton has built an extensive résumé in the academic community.
She was an assistant professor at the University of Maryland in Baltimore County from August 1994 to December 1999, teaching sociology and anthropology, according to university spokesman Mike Lurie.
In that period, she received a grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse to work on a project titled "Impact of Violence on Women's Drug Use and AIDS Risk."
After a few successful years, she ran into trouble.
In 1999, she filed a sex discrimination lawsuit against the university and several employees. She lost that lawsuit, and the case is on appeal.
According to court documents, Britton's relationship with the university soured when officials refused to give her extra pay for the research she was conducting. Britton notified the university of her desire to resign in September 1999, and the university fired her in November of that year, according to documents.
In 1999, the National Institutes of Health informed the university of receiving allegations that Britton falsified data in a pilot study as well as the credentials for her staff when applying for the research grant, the documents say.
Other public records show that she served for a time as the president of Institute for Women and Girls Health Research Inc., which she ran from her home and from an office in Baltimore.
Court documents suggest that Britton had serious financial and personal problems in recent years, filing for bankruptcy in 2002 and going through a contentious divorce in which she accused her former husband of physical abuse.