By Jill Harmacinski
---- — LAWRENCE — Young women who worked for accused Broadway madam Lori Barron told police they performed sex acts on hundreds of men, including a Methuen police officer, Methuen firefighters, a Haverhill city councilor, Lawrence and Amesbury teachers, lawyers and court workers, according to police reports filed yesterday.
Barron, 50, known to her workers as “Nina,” is accused of secretly and illegally taping the sexual trysts in “The Day Spa for Gentlemen,” a 7B Broadway business raided by Lawrence detectives after Barron’s arrest Monday at her Salem, N.H., home. She is charged with seven felony counts, including human trafficking, illegal wiretapping, keeping a house of prostitution and photographing an unsuspecting nude person.
The mother of two who has been married for 20 years is accused of preying on needy women and young mothers, first employing them as receptionists and then “promoting” them to massage therapists and requiring them to perform sexual acts, including manual and oral sex, for cash. Barron allegedly advertised the jobs on Craigslist and posted daily spa specials on Backpage.com.
Barron, of 20 Riversedge Drive, allegedly videotaped the women with the johns, using the video footage to blackmail the women if they stepped out of line or tried to quit. She also threatened to call the Department of Children and Family services and make allegations against women who had children, according to court papers.
She threatened one worker “that if she didn’t prostitute herself she would have her kids taken away,” according to a police report.
Police started investigating the Broadway brothel in March after Barron allegedly had a fight with one of her workers who refused to let a client “spank” her. Barron grabbed the 21-year-old woman by her hair and “dragged her down the stairs to the parking lot without her shoes or purse,” according to a police report.
“Barron liked working with girls that were in a bad situation and needed money,” one worker told police. “(Barron) was good at convincing me and manipulating me, she made it feel like we were together ... if a girl was strong and didn’t need the money, Barron had no use for them. She preyed on weak people,” the worker added.
When clients came to the spa, they placed $100 cash in a basket Barron controlled. In order to obtain sexual services, they had to pay another $100, a cut of which was given to the workers involved. The women dressed in lingerie Barron purchased for them, workers told police.
Methuen attorney Thomas Torrisi was named in court papers as one of Barron’s clients, an allegation he publicly denied yesterday.
Torrisi previously defended Barron when she was arrested in May 2011 for running a similar spa in Salem, N.H., and was later convicted of prostitution there. Torrisi said that when he showed up at Lawrence District Court yesterday to represent Barron at her arraignment, a prosecutor informed him he was named in police documents as one of Barron’s clients, he said.
A worker, who said she performed a sex act on Torrisi, said she recognized him because he was an umpire when she played softball years ago. “She also stated that Torrisi frequents the spa and on one occasion that she remembers just last week, Friday, Torrisi came in and went into a spa room with Barron for two hours,” the worker told police. She said she walked by the room when Barron came out and saw Torrisi “naked on the table.”
Torrisi said none of that is true. He appeared in Salem, N.H. District Court with Barron Monday after her arrest on a fugitive from justice warrant.
“My relationship with Miss Barron has entirely been an attorney/client relationship. I absolutely deny all of these allegations ... I will defend myself from here to eternity,” Torrisi said.
Barron told workers she had connections with the FBI and Lawrence police. She also told the women to have clients strip naked and lie down on the massage table when they arrived. “This is to see if that person is a police officer because ‘cops won’t get naked,’” the worker told police.
One women said some male clients “were very quiet but others just talked freely.” When police asked for the names of specific clients, the women were unsure but said sometimes the men would talk about their jobs.
The Day Spa for Gentlemen was previously located at 599 Canal St. but later moved to the Broadway location, police said. One worker told police she saw Barron perform oral sex on a client last fall at the Canal Street location.
A list of Barron’s clientele was not released yesterday, and it was unclear if any of the johns will face prosecution. Detectives seized a MacBook Pro computer, two cellphones and a day planner during raids at Barron’s home and office. All of the evidence is still being processed, police said.
Police Chief John Romero said the investigation remains open but could not say if more charges are pending.
“We will gather as much information as we can based on that, make a determination,” Romero said.
District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett also noted the investigation “has just begun” and a “vast amount of evidence has been collected.”
“We will pursue any and all charges that are supported by the evidence. The Human Trafficking Law provides us with additional charging options which we are exploring at this time,” said Blodgett, in a statement released last night.
Judge Mark Sullivan yesterday set Barron’s bail at $30,000, which she posted by bank check, at 1:30 p.m. yesterday.
Defense attorney Tony Ortiz of Lawrence said Barron is a 20-year resident of Salem and posed no flight risk. He noted she cooperated with police Monday during her arrest, allowing them to search her home. She waived extradition in Salem, N.H., District Court, immediately agreeing to come to Lawrence to face the charges.
Ortiz said the allegations were fueled by disgruntled employees and noted detectives did not find any cameras and recording equipment in her spa when they searched it Monday evening.
The women interviewed by detectives included an 18-year-old high school senior who was employed as a receptionist. She said she was paid in cash every Monday for answering the phones and booking clients for the other “girls.” The girl said Barron wanted her to work in the massage rooms, but she declined, “informing Nina she was not hired to massage ...(but) as a receptionist,” according to the report.
Another worker told police she knew one of her male clients was a police officer in Methuen because previously “he had served her with a restraining order at the Methuen police station,” according to court papers.
Barron allegedly also employed a bodyguard who would go to the parking lot and write down the license plates of clients while they were inside. The workers also had an escape plan if the spa was raided by police when they were working.
“Everyone in the business knows to go out the kitchen window onto to the roof to escape if the cops show up,” one worker told police.
Barron was previously convicted on prostitution charges afer she and another woman were arrested in Salem, N.H., in an investigation dubbed “Operation Bunny Ranch.”
Barron, then the owner of ETEA Weight Loss Spa at 282 Main St., was charged with felony and misdemeanor prostitution. An employee, Susan Choi, 29, of Derry, was charged with misdemeanor prostitution.
She is due back in Lawrence District Court on June 27.