Posts Tagged ‘FBI’
For quite some time there has been a growing number of unsubstantiated rumors of sexual misconduct within the Royal Order of Jesters (see the previous article about molestation in Demolay). However, more light has glimmered upon in the darkest of areas of our Fraternity once again. This time, numerous states are involved showing that organized prostitution and abuse is rampant. Those states include, but are not limited to, Texas, Florida, and New York.
The first sign of the Jesters’ abuse came in the form of an anonymous email sent to the Grand Lodge of Texas. The claim was generalized. The information within the email was investigated by the Grand Lodge of Texas. The appointed Grand Lodge Officers were unable to find a Mason who could substantiate the unsigned email.
Second, there are Court Documents filed in The United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida Miami Division which indicated there was a problem within the Jesters’ Order (Case Number 07-21228-CIV-Martinez-Bandstra, dated December 20, 2007). The documents list 57 witnesses, 19 of which are believed to be members of the Jesters. These witnesses were to testify about illegal drugs and child prostitution. See the attached documents showing the statements from the abused children, the original civil complaint, and the witness list from that legal proceeding.
Third, on March 9, 2008, a retired New York State Supreme Court Justice resigned his post as a hearing officer. The resignation came as federal agents investigate his alleged role in taking a local massage parlor worker across state lines for purposes of prostitution. The FBI and U.S. Border Patrol agents determined it was necessary to investigate allegations that retired Judge Ronald H. Tills, his former law clerk, and a retired police captain took the female massage parlor employee in a motor home to a gathering of members of a nationwide group called the Royal Order of Jesters.
At the Jesters event, law enforcement officials said, the woman allegedly was paid to perform sexual favors. Police said the men who took her to the event could face federal criminal charges for transporting the female across state lines for the purposes of prostitution. These men were found guilty and sentenced to a prison term.
The U.S. Attorney’s office stated that Tills admitted the following:
- He was responsible for recruiting out-of-state prostitutes to work a Jesters meeting in Dunkirk “in or about September 2001,” while serving as director of the Buffalo chapter of the Jesters
- He recruited an illegal alien prostitute from a North Tonawanda massage parlor to service men at a Jesters event in Kentucky in October 2005.
- He arranged for transporting prostitutes from Buffalo Niagara International Airport to a national Jesters meeting in Niagara Falls, Ont., in the spring of 2006.
- He recruited a woman from the same massage parlor to work as a prostitute at a Jesters gathering in Pennsylvania sometime in the fall of 2006. He also arranged for a Buffalo-area prostitute to travel to Florida for a Jesters event.
- He arranged for prostitutes from three different states to service a Jesters meeting in Brantford, Ont., in October 2007.
The Federal investigators have reason to believe that multiple chapters of the Jesters were involved in transporting prostitutes across state lines. This information can be found in the court papers filed by U.S. Attorney Robert C. Moscati.
Probe of Jesters’ carousing goes national
By Dan Herbeck
Updated: August 20, 2010
To hear the leadership of the Royal Order of Jesters tell it, the illegal activities that ensnared three Buffalo-area members in a federal investigation are isolated events not in keeping with Jesters traditions.
But sources close to the investigation and former Jesters from other parts of the country tell a different story, one of bizarre activities — including routinely hiring prostitutes for gatherings, sex competitions and degrading initiation rites for new members — at many Jesters outings, with off-duty police hired to keep nonmembers away.
“I quit the Jesters more than 20 years ago, and this kind of thing has been going on at least 40 or 50 years,” said Malcolm “Mutt” Herring, 90, of Montgomery, Ala. “I quit because I don’t drink, and I don’t mess around with other women, other than my wife. Going to one of their events was like going to a whorehouse.”
While the case against the three Buffalo-area Jesters is wrapping up, with sentencings expected soon, federal agents have expanded their investigation and are looking into allegations that illegal activities occurred at outings sponsored by more of the Jesters’ 191 chapters. The local men who pleaded guilty in the Buffalo case, and others, have cooperated with the feds, providing information about Jesters events in other cities.
Gary N. Martin, president of the 22,000-member Jesters, says he is disturbed about the allegations. But Martin said that, to his knowledge, such conduct is extremely isolated and never condoned by the organization.
“We believe that this is isolated, inappropriate, indeed illegal conduct by only an extremely small fraction of our membership,” said Martin, a Houston car dealer. “We have, however, taken a number of significant steps to make it abundantly clear to [members] that such behavior is unacceptable and will not be tolerated.”
The Jesters, a 98-year-old, nationwide fraternal group whose past members have included movie stars, judges, prominent businessmen and two presidents, is a tax-exempt organization that admits it is dedicated to one thing: the pursuit of mirth and merriment. Last year, the group put its Buffalo chapter on probation, after investigators from a human trafficking task force learned that Buffalo members took prostitutes—some of them illegal aliens — to Jesters weekend gatherings, known as “books.”
A Jesters spokesman said a chapter in Big Sandy, Ky., also was put on probation because of incidents uncovered in the same federal probe.
Code of secrecy
Retired State Supreme Court Justice Ronald Tills; his former law clerk, Michael R. Stebick of Orchard Park; and retired Lockport police Capt. John Trowbridge all pleaded guilty to transporting prostitutes across state lines. Trowbridge is scheduled to be sentenced Wednesday in Buffalo’s federal court, and Tills is scheduled for a pre-sentencing conference Thursday.
With rare exceptions, the Jesters’ 22,000 members operate under a strict code of secrecy.
“When I joined, they told me their motto was, ‘What you hear here, what you see here, stays here when you leave here,’ ” said J. L. Edwards, a former member from South Carolina. “Everybody’s told to keep the secret.”
Edwards, a farmer in his 60s, said he belonged to the Jesters for seven years, ending in 1998. Edwards said he quit because he felt guilty about things he saw at the Jesters’ gatherings.
Edwards told The Buffalo News the incidents he witnessed included:
Prostitutes walking around parties, wearing only panties, soliciting Jesters to meet them later in their hotel rooms.
“Sex contests” involving prostitutes and Jesters members, performing in front of large groups of Jesters.
Off-duty cops in uniform, making sure that no non-Jesters entered the rooms where activities were going on.
“You had prominent people at these books — ministers, police chiefs. It’s an elite group, people like Judge Tills,” Edwards said. “A lot of these guys were prominent men in their 60s and 70s. They have beautiful young women with them, and it makes them feel like they’re a young buck again.”
A national Jesters spokesman, Robert Leonard, said the organization is unaware of any such activities. And if they ever did occur, he said, they were not part of the official functions.
The case involving Tills, 74, of Hamburg, sent shock waves through the national Jesters organization.
A former assemblyman and State Supreme Court justice, Tills hastily retired in March 2008 from his $300-a-day job as a hearing officer for the court. His resignation from the part-time post occurred shortly after he became aware that members of the Western New York Human Trafficking Task Force were investigating him and other Jesters.
Tills case a shocker
Last September, Tills pleaded guilty in federal court to a felony violation of the Mann Act, which prohibits transporting people across state lines for prostitution.
Between 2001 and 2007, Tills admitted, he arranged for prostitutes to perform at Jesters events in Dunkirk; Brantford, Ont.; Niagara Falls, Ont.; and unspecified cities in Florida, Kentucky and Pennsylvania.
As the former director of the Buffalo Jesters, Tills has cooperated extensively with federal agents who are investigating other chapters, sources close to the case said.
And court papers filed by Assistant U. S. Attorney Robert C. Moscati make clear that investigators do not believe Tills was the only Jester involved in procuring prostitutes.
“This organization maintained chapters throughout the United States. [It] was the custom of these chapters to host periodic meetings, usually on weekends,” Moscati said of the Jesters.
“At most of these meetings, some members of the organization would be tasked to arrange for the presence of women at the meeting, for the specific purpose of utilizing the women to engage in sexual intercourse and other sexual activity with the organization’s members in exchange for money,” Moscati said.
Martin, the group’s president, is working to distance himself from what happened with the Buffalo chapter.
Last August Martin sent a directive to all 191 local chapters, forbidding the following conduct during initiation ceremonies:
“Any type of physical brutality, such as whipping, beating, striking, branding, electronic shocking [or] placing of a harmful substance on the body.”
Sleep deprivation, exposure to the elements, confinement to small spaces, or other activity that subjects Jesters to “an unreasonable risk of harm.”
Any activity involving consumption of food, liquor, drugs or other substances that would expose a Jester to “an unreasonable risk of harm.”
“The warning was sent out in an abundance of caution,” Leonard said. “It was based on some prominent lawsuits filed about hazing at college campuses. It had nothing to do with any specific incident involving Jesters.”
Many Masons upset
The Jesters are a division of the Freemasons, one of the world’s largest and oldest fraternal organizations. Many Masons are upset and angry about what has happened with this subgroup.
Some feel it may be time to disband the Jesters, said Christopher L. Hodapp of Indianapolis, co-author of the book “Freemasons for Dummies.”
“They’ve got no business being Masons,” Hodapp said of the Jesters who cavort with prostitutes. “It’s completely opposed to the obligations we take in joining a Masonic lodge. The Masons are about family, community and faith-oriented activities that make good men better.”
According to Leonard, five former Buffalo Jesters — Tills, Trowbridge, Stebick and two other men he declined to name — resigned from the Jesters because of the federal probe.
He added that, as far as national leaders know, the only Jesters events featuring prostitutes were those identified in the federal case in Buffalo.
But some investigators doubt that.
“I don’t believe that,” said Elizabeth Fildes, an Erie County sheriff’s deputy and program director of the Human Trafficking Task Force. “It seems like it went on for a very long time.”
The task force includes investigators from the FBI, U. S. Border Patrol, U. S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement, and the Erie and Niagara sheriffs’ offices.
“From my conversations with the government, it seems they believe a lot of the other Jesters chapters were doing the same things as the Buffalo guys,” said Joel L. Daniels, Stebick’s attorney.
Critics of the Jesters — including Sandy Frost, an online journalist from Tacoma, Wash. — said it is outrageous the group gets tax-exempt status from the Internal Revenue Service since, as stated in its own literature, its sole purpose is to have fun.
In a related article, a Sheriff’s Deputy (Michael Lesinski) admitted to hiding the above crimes of the New York judge and driving prostitutes to work at a convention (November 2010):
Ex-deputy admits hiding crime
Michael Lesinski admits he drove prostitutes to hotel for Jesters’ convention.
By Dan Herbeck
Updated: November 19, 2010, 9:04 PM
A retired Erie County sheriff’s deputy pleaded guilty Friday to concealing a felony crime in a case involving prostitutes and a fraternal group called the Royal Order of Jesters.
Michael Lesinski, 50, of Lake View, admitted in federal court that in April 2005, he transported “approximately six or seven” prostitutes from Buffalo Niagara International Airport to a hotel in Niagara Falls, Ont., where the Jesters were having a convention.
According to court papers, Lesinski was a member of the Jesters’ Buffalo chapter, which included a state judge, a former Lockport police captain and a former state court official. All previously took guilty pleas in the case.
Authorities said Lesinski, who has since retired, was still active as a road deputy at the time of the off-duty incident involving the prostitutes.
“[Lesinski] pleaded guilty to misprision of a felony, which is basically concealment of a felony crime,” said Rodney O. Personius, the former deputy’s lawyer.
The defense lawyer said Lesinski admits that he knew the women were prostitutes after dropping them off at the Ontario hotel, but he said Lesinski takes the position that he did not know they were prostitutes when he took them across the border into Canada.
U.S. District Judge William M. Skretny approved the guilty plea, which was presented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert C. Moscati.
Lesinski is the fourth former public official to be convicted of a crime in connection with the Jesters probe, which was conducted by FBI agents and the Western New York Human Trafficking Task Force.
In August 2009, retired State Supreme Court Judge Ronald H. Tills, 74, was sentenced by Skretny to 18 months in prison after admitting that he coordinated the procurement of prostitutes for several Jesters events. Skretny called the former judge’s conduct “disgraceful.”
Former Lockport Police Capt. John Trowbridge was put on probation for two years after taking a guilty plea in the case, and Michael Stebick, a former Erie County prosecutor and state court law clerk, was sentenced to four years of home confinement after also pleading to a crime.
National leaders of the Jesters, a national organization affiliated with the Masons, have repeatedly said they were shocked to learn that members of the Buffalo chapter were employing prostitutes at their gatherings.
Lesinski retired from police work in November 2008 after 21 years with the Sheriff’s Office.
These series of incidents may not seem like much except to those in the profane world looking at Freemasonry and casting judgment. If we take these incidents in the collective, it is apparent that the instances of abuse are widespread and scattered throughout the jurisdictions in the United States. Are we to sit around and await “newly elected Grand Lodge Officers” to clean up the mess? Such comments are routinely made by our rank-and-file, but these situations have been going on for over a decade. Waiting for new blood to takeover the Grand Lodge chairs is clearly the worst thing the Masonic membership may do.
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