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Plea deal for landlord in alleged prostitution case - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Plea deal for landlord in alleged prostitution case

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WILLISTON, Vt. -

"I think that Mr. Booska has learned his lesson," Chittenden County Prosecutor T.J. Donovan said. "You can't turn a blind-eye when your tenants are engaged in criminal activity."

Thomas Booska says he won't admit to or deny allegations that he knowingly allowed massage parlor workers to exchange sex acts for money at his rental property in Williston. But he is willing to accept the consequences. The 68-year-old pleaded no contest to one misdemeanor count Friday. As part of a deal with prosecutors, he donated $500 to a charity that fights human trafficking. He will avoid serving a two-year sentence and the record will be expunged if he can avoid further wrongdoing.

"I think there was a rush on both sides and it just made sense to resolve it this way. Mr. Booska's never had any problems before, he'll never have any problems again and he'll come out of this with a clean record," said Kurt Hughes, Booska's lawyer.

"If this case went to trial, we would have frankly had a lot of challenges given the fact that we don't have witnesses anymore," Donovan said.

Though his criminal case is closed, federal prosecutors are demanding the deed to the Williston Spa property because its operators allegedly used human trafficking to bring in sex workers. But Donovan says the state won't prosecute them because they can't be found. Operators packed and fled, which is common in cases like these.

"We license barbers; we license tattoo artists. And getting a massage-- in my opinion-- is a much more intimate experience than getting your hair cut," Donovan said.

Donovan says a simple change like licensure would discourage and help prosecute prostitution ring-leaders. He says more importantly, it could help free the women operators have trapped in the industry.

Booska says he will fight the feds to keep his property. There's no timeline yet for when he may go to court for that part of the case.

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