6 arrested in Wake Forest prostitution sting, including champion poker player

tmcdonald@newsobserver.comMarch 16, 2013 

— A six-hour, undercover prostitution sting by Wake Forest police snared six men, including a top professional poker player and a prominent attorney.

Gregory Paul Raymer of Village Manor Drive in Raleigh, a professional poker player known by the name “Fossilman,” was among those arrested. He won the World Series of Poker in 2004 and cleared about $1.7 million after taxes. He then quit his job and moved to Raleigh’s Wakefield neighborhood.

Raymer issued a statement Friday through his attorney, Wade Smith of Raleigh.

“Mr. Raymer is very sorry for this lapse in judgment,” Smith said in the statement. “He regrets deeply the pain he has caused his family, friends and fans. Mr. Raymer is grateful for the many expressions of support he has received.”

Another man caught up in the sting, Christopher Burrell Shella of Vintage Hill Drive in Durham, is an attorney and managing director of the Shella, Harris & Aus law firm in Durham.

Shella was in the public spotlight last spring after he withdrew from a murder case involving Crystal Mangum, the woman who was at the center of the 2006 Duke lacrosse scandal. After Mangum was accused of fatally stabbing her boyfriend, Shella represented her until May of last year. He said he withdrew from the case because Mangum had compromised her defense by sharing information with her supporters.

Shella could not be reached for comment Friday.

The sting occurred Wednesday in two rooms rented by police at the Candlewood Suites Hotel on Retail Drive in Wake Forest.

During a news conference Friday, Wake Forest police said the hotel staff had no idea what was going on and that the hotel was not targeted because of problems with prostitution in the area.

“We kept it covert to the point where they weren’t even aware of what was going on until the next day,” Sgt. Stephen Cashwell said about the hotel officials. “We have people living nearby, and we don’t want them to think this (hotel) is a den of prostitution.”

Police said the men responded to an advertisement posted by undercover officers on the website backpage.com. Cashwell said the website is popular with prostitutes.

The men were arrested without incident. Their court date is scheduled for April 18.

Nationwide trend

The sting aimed to combat a growing prostitution trend nationwide and in select spots throughout this region, police said.

Prior to setting up the sting, Cashwell said Wake Forest police talked with officers in nearby towns and cities about the issue.

“There were local posts in North Raleigh, Louisburg and the surrounding area,” he said.

“The locations prostitutes choose for this type of criminal activity vary and seldom remain the same for more than a couple of days at a time, which makes enforcement difficult,” Wake Forest Police Chief Jeffrey M. Leonard said in a statement.

‘Aren’t cheap hotels’

Cashwell agreed, saying the Internet has created a new trend in prostitution, where people can connect on websites and chat rooms instead of on street corners and at motel rooms that are rented by the hour.

“These aren’t cheap hotels. They stay for a day or two and put these posts up,” Cashwell said. “They move to a new hotel and repost.”

Cashwell noted that while prostitution is often thought of as a victimless crime, it can lead to other types of more serious crimes such as drug use, human trafficking, weapons violations, assault and robbery.

The four other people charged were:

• Kevin Scott Konarzewski of Barnhill Lane in Wake Forest.

• Barrett Lee Bennett of University Drive in Durham.

• Robert Hancock of San Remo Place in Wake Forest.

• Gerald Barham of Bud Morris Road in Wake Forest.

Staff Writer J. Andrew Curliss contributed to this report.

McDonald: 919-829-4533

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