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As Gov. Eliot Spitzer faced mounting calls to resign amid a prostitution scandal, a law enforcement official said today that the governor first came under suspicion because of cash payments from several bank accounts to an account operated by a call-girl ring.
Spitzer was the initial target of the investigation and was tracked using court-ordered wiretaps that appear to have recorded him arranging for a prostitute to meet him at a Washington hotel in mid-February, the official said.
The official spoke to The Associated Press condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the investigation.
The scandal surrounding the man who built his political reputation on rooting out corruption stunned the state. Calls for Spitzer's resignation began immediately and intensified today with the New York Daily News, New York Post and Newsday all demanding that he step down.
"Hit the road, John ... and make it quick!" read the headline of the Daily News editorial, while the Post called him "NY's naked emperor."
Spitzer retreated from public view Monday afternoon, when he appeared glassy-eyed with his shellshocked wife, Silda, at his side and apologized to his family and the public, but did not directly acknowledge any involvement with the prostitute.
"I have acted in a way that violates my obligations to my family and violates my &
or any &
sense of right and wrong," he said. "I apologize to the public, whom I promised better."
Spitzer allegedly paid for the call girl to take a train from New York to Washington &
a move that opened the transaction up to federal prosecution because she crossed state lines. The governor has not been charged, and prosecutors would not comment on the case. A Spitzer spokesman said the governor has retained a large Manhattan law firm.
The case started when banks noticed the frequent transfers from several accounts and filed suspicious activity reports with the Internal Revenue Service, the law enforcement official told the AP. The accounts were traced back to Spitzer, prompting public corruption investigators to open an inquiry.
Attorney General Michael Mukasey was made aware of the investigation because it involved a high-ranking political official.
The inquiry found that Spitzer was a repeat customer with the Emperors Club VIP, a high-end prostitution service, the official said. In an affidavit filed in Manhattan federal court last week, Spitzer appeared as "Client 9," according to another law enforcement official who also spoke on condition of anonymity because of the ongoing investigation.
Client 9 wanted a high-priced prostitute named Kristen to come to Washington on a 5:39 p.m. train from Manhattan Feb. 13. The door to the hotel room would be left ajar. Train tickets, cab fare, room service, and the minibar were all on him.
"Yup, same as in the past. No question about it," the caller told Kristen's boss, when asked if he would make his payment to the same business as usual, a federal affidavit said. The client paid $4,300 to Kristen, touted by the escort service as a "petite, pretty brunette," according to the court papers.
The Feb. 13 tryst took place in the Mayflower hotel, where Spitzer rented a second room for the woman under another name, the law enforcement official who spoke to The AP today said. Spitzer had to sneak past his State Police detail to get to her room, the official said.
According to the court papers, an Emperors Club agent was told by the prostitute that her evening with Client 9 went well. The agent said she had been told that the client "would ask you to do things that ... you might not think were safe ... very basic things," according to the papers, but Kristen responded by saying: "I have a way of dealing with that ... I'd be, like, listen dude, you really want the sex?"
Spitzer, a 48-year-old father of three teenage girls, was elected with a historic margin of victory, and took office Jan. 1, 2007, vowing to stamp out corruption in New York government in the same way that he took on Wall Street executives while state attorney general.
Spitzer's cases as attorney general included a few criminal prosecutions of prostitution rings and tourism involving prostitutes. He also uncovered crooked practices and self-dealing in the stock brokerage and insurance industries and in corporate board rooms; he went after former New York Stock Exchange chairman Richard Grasso over his $187.5 million compensation package.
Spitzer become known as the "Sheriff of Wall Street." Time magazine named him "Crusader of the Year," and the tabloids proclaimed him "Eliot Ness." The square-jawed graduate of Princeton University and Harvard Law was sometimes mentioned as a potential presidential candidate.
Spitzer's term as governor has been fraught with problems, including an unpopular plan to grant driver's licenses to illegal immigrants and a plot by his aides to smear his main Republican nemesis.
It would not be the first time that a high-profile politician became ensnared in a prostitution scandal. Sen. David Vitter of Louisiana acknowledged in July that his Washington phone number was among those called several years ago by an escort service.
Scandals also recently derailed neighboring Connecticut Gov. John Rowland and New Jersey's Jim McGreevey. And Sen. Larry Craig of Idaho pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct after being arrested last June in a Minneapolis airport restroom.
Attention turned to the state's lieutenant governor, David Paterson, who automatically becomes governor if Spitzer quits. There was no immediate comment from Paterson, who would become New York's first black governor.
There was no word on Spitzer's plans, but Assembly Republican leader James Tedisco said today he received a call Monday from Paterson.
Tedisco said Paterson raised the possibility of such a scenario by asking if Tedisco, who has been at odds with Spitzer, would be willing to start fresh with him.
"He called me to ask if we would give him the benefit of the doubt, and go forward," Tedisco said. "I told him we would."
N.Y. governor linked to prostitution
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