ALBUQUERQUE — Two professors accused of running a sophisticated prostitution website appeared to have one goal: Police say they wanted to create a place where respected men like themselves could go for sex without having to worry about getting caught up in street stings.
"They have a lot to lose, and they tried to build an organization to protect themselves," Albuquerque police Lt. William Roseman said.
The website, based in the Albuquerque-Santa Fe area, featured "weather reports" about police vice stings; physical descriptions and cellphone numbers of undercover police to help members avoid arrest; training videos on what to do if members were busted; and detailed information on the prostitutes themselves, including prices and star performance rankings from other members.
Southwest Companions had 1,400 members, including former University of New Mexico President F. Chris Garcia, who police said was among the site's top echelon.
Membership was invitation-only, and new members were vetted as they worked their way up through three tiers. The first level was "probation," Roseman said, where the new clients secured prostitutes through the site.
After they hooked up, the prostitute would tell a moderator what she did and how much she was paid. As the members progressed through the "verified" and "trusted" tiers, they gained access to more information about undercover officers and the hookers.
The hookers were paid in cash, with prices ranging from $200 for a single act to as much as $1,000 for an hour of time. Police found no evidence students were recruited, or that the site was a university network.
David C. Flory, a physics professor at Fairleigh Dickinson University in New Jersey, is suspected of buying the site in 2009. The site was created by a woman named Cara Garrett. Investigators say Garrett was still involved in the ring when she tipped police to its existence in December after being arrested on drug, child abuse and prostitution charges.
Flory, 68, who lives in New Jersey but has a home in Santa Fe, told police he bought the site to create a safe place for people to buy and sell sex, referring to it as a hobby, Roseman said.