Prosecutor Accused in NYC Call Girl Biz
Saturday, January 13, 2007; 5:10 PM
NEW YORK -- It's a tabloid writer's dream.
There's a boastful pimp, a federal prosecutor turned tough-talking defense lawyer and a drop-dead gorgeous woman once touted as New York City's top prostitute. Their lives converge at a spacious Manhattan loft that housed a high-priced escort service a mere three blocks from City Hall.
"Crime. Sex. Unforgettable people doing unforgettable things," said Barry Agulnick, lawyer for Jason Itzler, the pimp. "This case probably has more of the Hollywood element than any other I've had. It's got a show biz aura to it."
The case took an intriguing turn this week when Itzler's previous lawyer on the pimping charges, Paul Bergrin, was accused of taking over the escort service and sleeping with the prostitutes after police jailed Itzler in 2005.
Bergrin was a former county and federal prosecutor in New Jersey before becoming a hard-charging defense lawyer, representing clients including a soldier in the Abu Ghraib scandal. He was charged Wednesday with operating a brothel and laundering its profits through fake companies.
A phone number for Bergrin's lawyer was disconnected, but the attorney told The New York Times the charges might stem from prosecutors retaliating against Bergrin's aggressive courtroom tactics.
Bergrin and Itzler crossed paths in January 2005 when authorities shut down NY Confidential escort service. Few would have imagined that Bergrin would eventually be accused of emulating his client, a man who considered himself the king of New York pimps.
Itzler, 39, had run NY Confidential like a showman, promoting its women and charging as much as $2,000 an hour for one of the prostitutes, his girlfriend Natalie McLennan. His business card called his service "Rocket Fuel for Winners."
Itzler made a lot money and spent it freely on such expensive toys, including a $60,000 Mercedes-Benz and a $25,000 Cartier watch. After he bragged to a tabloid in December 2004 that he was untouchable, police arrested him.
He turned to Bergrin, 51, who had developed a reputation for aggressive tactics and bluster. Bergrin didn't represent Itzler long on the brothel charges _ Agulnick took over the case more than a year ago.
But authorities say the pimp and Bergrin still had dealings.
Authorities say Bergrin and two other men took over NY Confidential's operations and kept the brothel running after Itzler's arrest, employing Itzler's escorts and taking in more than $1.2 million in prostitution proceeds in one stretch in 2005. They laundered the proceeds through two shell companies, prosecutors said.
The business started to falter when they began having sex with the escorts, and Bergrin paid the women with money out of the till, authorities said.
The day after Bergrin was charged, Itzler, who pleaded guilty in June to money laundering and attempted promotion of prostitution, was sentenced to 18 months to three years in prison. Itzler told the judge he'll "never run an escort agency again."
McLennan, who once graced the cover of New York magazine, was not around. Their relationship appears over, Agulnick said. She's scheduled to face trial next month on money laundering charges.
Agulnick believes Itzler will rebound and perhaps make a lot of money one day _ in "any legitimate business."
"Jason is a great entrepreneur," Agulnick said.