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Feds: Couple ran prostitution ring

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FRANK ELTMAN | AP

A married couple with homes in suburban New York and Florida who were arrested on money laundering charges stemming from a high-priced prostitution operation run over the Internet were ordered held without bail Thursday, federal prosecutors said.

Vincent Lombardo and his wife, Melissa Lombardo, also known as Melissa Hodge, were arrested Wednesday by New York Police Department detectives and U.S. Department of Homeland Security officials at a home they rent in Massapequa, on Long Island.

The couple appeared Thursday afternoon in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn, where they were held without bail. A message left for their attorney was not immediately returned.

The Lombardos, who are in their 40s, also own a home in Boca Raton, Fla., according to a criminal complaint.

The complaint says the couple ran a prostitution ring called Aphrodite Companions, which featured a website with photos of scantily clad or nude women depicting their schedules, rates and cities where they were available to meet clients. A spokesman for prosecutors could not immediately say how many women were involved, citing an ongoing investigation.

Prospective clients were required to go through a screening process, and clients were encouraged to post reviews of the women's services for which they would receive discounts for future encounters, the complaint said.

Prosecutors did not say how much money was collected in the scheme, but the complaint notes the couple had more than $1 million in a bank account and tens of thousands of dollars in other accounts.

The women were paid hundreds of dollars per hour for their services, according to the complaint. In some instances, women were flown from New York to Miami to engage with clients, it said, and in another, a prostitute flew to the United Arab Emirates to meet a client.

In one February 2012 email, Aphrodite Companions told a prospective prostitute about "a party in Miami for a group of politicians, lawyers and many other important businessmen (who) are looking for companions," authorities said.

Another email, they said, noted there was a client from London looking for someone to travel with him to South Africa. The agreed-upon price, according to the complaint, was $3,000 per day.

A Russian businessman sought a prostitute to accompany him to the Sturgis motorcycle festival in South Dakota, but a rate had not been determined in that transaction, the complaint said.

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.

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