There’s definitely more to this one than meets the eye: A former federal prosecutor who became a brash, controversial New Jersey defense lawyer has admitted that he helped run an exclusive Manhattan whorehouse with the man who later hired Eliot Spitzer’s favorite hooker.
However, he cut a deal that keeps him out of prison, raising questions about his possible cooperation with authorities probing the escort business and other crimes — or about other probes that may be under way.
Paul Bergrin, 53, pleaded guilty in N.Y. State Supreme Court to conspiracing to promote prostitution through NY Confidential, a now-defunct $1,000-per-hour escort service founded by Jason Itzler.
Itzler, who once proclaimed himself “King of all Pimps,” claims credit for taking Ashley Youmans of Belmar — better known as Ashley Dupre — from small-time movie-making to platinum hooking, before she helped bring down Spitzer, the former N.Y. State Attorney General.
Prosecutors originally said Bergrin faced up to 25 years in prison on charges of money laundering, promoting prostitution and conspiracy.
He cut a honey of a deal, however: When Bergrin is sentenced on Sept. 15, he’ll likely get probation and be fined $50,000, under terms of the deal.
And because he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor and not a felony, he’ll also probably keep his law license.
Bergrin was a New Jersey success story, jumping from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for New Jersey to private practice, defending some extremely shady rappers and gangsters, as well as high-profile clients like Queen Latifah, Li’l Kim and others.
NY Confidential advertised extensively online, by word of mouth — and in New York Magazine.
Authorities said Bergrin pulled down commissions of more than $50,000 in just three months, through dates that booked at $1,000 an hour.
The son of a New York City police officer, Bergrin started out on the straight and narrow. After serving time in the Army, he investigated murders for the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office before becoming a fed.
A father of three, Bergrin represented Itzler after he was arrested in 2001 for smuggling Ecstasy into Newark Airport. Itzler was released in 2003 after serving seven months, and established the high-priced NY Confidential escort service out of a building at 54th and Sixth Avenue in Manhattan.
Authorities say Bergrin helped Itzler stay legit during his parole by listing him as a paralegal in his office.
NY Confidential later moved to TriBeCa and was raided in 2005. A year later, pleaded guilty to money laundering and promoting prostitution in 2006. He was sentenced to 18 months in prison.
While he was away, authorities said, Bergrin ran the business — poorly.
On top of that, prosecutors said, he was helping himself to the merchandise, never a good business practice.
Before long, Bergrin was arrested and charged with money laundering, conspiracy, promoting prostitution and misconduct by an attorney.