Pimp gets maximum, 3 years, in racket

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NEW YORK (AP) – A once boastful but now purportedly chastened pimp at the center of a prostitution and money laundering racket was sentenced Thursday to a maximum of three years in prison.

Jason Itzler, 39, entered the Manhattan courtroom, his clothes loose and disheveled and his hands cuffed behind his back, winking and smiling at several detectives who had investigated and arrested him.

That same investigation led to the indictment and arrest this week of Paul Bergrin, 51, a former Essex County, N.J., prosecutor and former assistant U.S. attorney who was once Itzler’s lawyer, on money laundering and promoting prostitution charges.

Given a chance to speak, Itzler told state Supreme Court Justice Daniel FitzGerald that he was sorry for what he had done. “I’d like to say I was wrong,” he said to the judge. “I am remorseful for what I did.”

As for the women who sold sex for him, Itzler said, “I really believed I was helping them. I want everybody to know I will never run an escort agency again.”

Itzler pleaded guilty June 29 to money laundering and attempted promotion of prostitution in a deal that eliminated serious drug charges and got him a promised sentence of 18 months to three years in prison.

Barry Agulnick, Itzler’s lawyer, told the judge that laundering the relatively small amounts from prostitution services might be called “money laundering with a fabric softener.”

Itzler said in interviews that he charged $1,000 an hour for most of his prostitutes, and for one, his incomparable “Natalia,” he charged $2,000 an hour. His business cards called his escort service “Rocket Fuel for Winners.”

The defendant, a law school graduate whose brothel was about three blocks from the courthouse where he was sentenced, told the judge he believes he has grown since he was arrested in January 2005.

“I wouldn’t trade my two years in jail for anything,” said Itzler, who was not released on bail. “I grew up. I matured. I learned a lot. People will see that I’m a good person. I never meant any harm.”

Itzler then said he saw problems with the way the Department of Correction runs the jails and he believes he has ideas that could fix them.

Itzler’s name figured prominently Wednesday when the Manhattan district attorney’s office announced the indictment and arrest of Bergrin.

Bergrin, who attended the same Florida law school, and two codefendants were accused of taking over Itzler’s prostitution business after he was arrested. They were charged with money laundering, promoting prostitution and conspiracy. They face up to 25 years in prison if convicted.

AP-ES-01-11-07 1549EST

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