PRINCE WILLIAM COUNTY
Ex-Mayor Pleads No Contest to Brothel Charge
Wednesday, January 9, 2008
The 72-year-old former Dumfries mayor charged with running a brothel out of a strip mall pleaded no contest in Prince William County Circuit Court yesterday and received 12 months in jail, all suspended pending good behavior.
Melvin "Mel" Bray, who served as a Marine, a sheriff's deputy and a Dumfries Town Council member before becoming mayor in 2002, entered his plea to the misdemeanor charge of keeping a bawdy place. Jail time would not seem to serve a purpose in this case, said special prosecutor Thomas M. McKenna, explaining the plea agreement.
"He's 72 years old and has absolutely no criminal record, and prior to this was an upstanding member of the community," said McKenna, of the Chesterfield County commonwealth's attorney's office.
Still, he added, "there is no question that he in fact was running a house of prostitution."
As part of the plea, Bray agreed to forfeit the money police seized during the investigation.
Police officials said they discovered about $14,000 during the July 17 raid at Yorkshire Sports Therapy on Centreville Road near the Fairfax County line. A significant amount of the money was discovered in Bray's car, police said.
Bray could not be reached for comment, and calls to his attorney, William Stephens, were not returned yesterday.
Dumfries Mayor Fred E. Yohey Jr., who defeated Bray in the 2006 election, said he was glad to see the case come to a close and said Bray's "reputation has certainly been harmed by this whole incident."
Yohey said he was as surprised as anyone when he learned of the charges.
"He had a good reputation. You don't suspect something like that," he said.
The raid, which resulted in eight other arrests, was the culmination of a two-month investigation by police.
Among those charged was a woman, Hee Ma Jeung, who authorities believe may have been Bray's business partner.
She pleaded no contest to disorderly conduct yesterday. She and Bray had been indicted on felony charges of receiving money or other valuables from running a brothel, but the charges were dropped.
At the time of the raid, Bray denied the charges, telling The Washington Post that he would not "dishonor" himself by running a brothel.
"I positively swear on a stack of Bibles I would not do that," he said. "I would not stoop to that level and knowingly do something of that nature that would embarrass my family and those people who have supported me over the years."
According to court documents, police interviewed two men who were seen leaving the business.
One of the men told police that he walked in and was greeted by an Asian female, whom he gave $60. The documents said he was greeted by another Asian female who asked him whether he wanted sex, and he gave her $100.