Inside the case of the call-girl website

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Larry Barker Investigates

ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – Dr. Chris Garcia is among New Mexico’s most respected educators in a career spanning 40 years.

He has been a University of New Mexico professor, vice president, college dean, provost and the university’s 17th president.

Today that distinguished career is in ruins. In one fell swoop Garcia went from the heights of academia to a police interrogation room where he was read his Miranda rights.

Photos: Southwest Companions ~ The Evidence

Garcia’s downfall was his secret participation in a high class call girl service. It’s not your typical North Valley massage parlor, however. You see, these Southwest Companions were part of a sophisticated, high-tech criminal enterprise, a virtual house of prostitution.

“You have a website that’s promoting, advertising, soliciting customers and prostitutes,” said Mark Drebing, a Bernalillo County deputy district attorney. “This wasn’t just involving talk about sex. This was involving sexual acts for hire.”

Albuquerque Police Department Sgt. Jason Peck is assigned to the Special Investigations Division.

“It was a big deal,” Peck told KRQE News 13. “Southwest Companions reached across the country. These women are professional prostitutes who travel from city to city and conduct sex for hire.

“Southwest Companions was not open to just anybody who wanted a prostitute. It was operated as an exclusive, password-protected, members-only club offering more than a hundred top-dollar call girls.

“It wasn’t an open website that just any random public member can access,” Peck continued. “These were people who were looked into, backgrounded, that were confirmed not law enforcement members, thus making it a very secure place to conduct illegal activity.”

Drebing said that presented a challenge for investigators.

“This was, in my opinion, a very sophisticated operation because both the prostitutes and the customers, the johns, remained anonymous,” he said. “There wasn’t an easy way that law enforcement could track who was on the website.”

Among the ladies selling sex on Southwest Companions was Russian Emma, known to police as Konia Prinster. Now Konia describes herself as a supermodel and a philanthropist and is often photographed in the company of Hollywood stars. But in New Mexico, Russian Emma is a $300-an-hour call girl.

“Over a thousand men were participants in illegal sex for hire in Albuquerque,” Peck said. “Southwest Companions had higher-end prostitutes. Not just anyone can afford $300 for an hour.”

Sassygwin describes herself as a “country girl,” but in the city police identify Sassy as 36-year-old Virginia Montaño. Records show Sassygwin charges as much as $700 for unspeakable sex acts.

Sweet Seduction calls herself a career entertainer who likes to play guitar and the harmonica. But behind closed doors, Sweet Seduction plays a different tune. Detectives identify her as 51-year-old Deborah Innis, a $300-an-hour hooker.

As many as 1,400 men actively participated in the Southwest Companions website. After making a date with one of the elite call girls, the johns then routinely boasted on the site about their sexual experience in intimate detail.

“Generally (the customers) were upstanding citizens within this community soliciting prostitutes and remaining anonymous,” Drebing said.

An Albuquerque businessman arrested for his involvement described the operation when he was interviewed by police: “Southwest Companions creates a safe environment for man and prostitutes to hook up with.”

The driving force behind New Mexico’s elite call-girl service was an East Coast university professor and part-time resident of Santa Fe. By day Dr. David Flory taught physics at New Jersey’s Fairleigh Dickinson University. Online Flory was known as “David 8,” the covert owner of Southwest Companions.

“He was operating and owning that website, and it was clear from his posts as well as his statements it was for the purposes of prostitution,” Drebing said.

Flory was arrested in 2011 for promoting prostitution. During a police interrogation he denied breaking the law.

“I hardly think what I am doing is promoting prostitution,” he said.  “It’s a place for people to talk.”

So what, then, was the purpose of Southwest Companions?

“Well, to provide a safer place for people who want to indulge in adult activities without the dangers of the street, without the dangers of the drugs, without some of the problems that in my view occur with some of the unpleasant sides of prostitution,” Flory said.

And then there’s Garcia.

“He was very, very well-liked, very well-appreciated, and a lot of people had a lot of admiration for him,” said Jamie Koch, vice chair of the UNM Board of Regents.

Nobody knew about Garcia’s secret life. Behind the closed door of his UNM office, the one-time university president would log onto Southwest Companions as “Burque Pops.”

“His role was to maintain the anonymity and confidentiality of the website members.” Drebing said.

“Chris Garcia scheduled the girls on a calendar, projecting girls who were coming into the town,” added Peck. “We might have a girl coming to town next week. He would announce her coming, post some reviews about her.”

So, was Garcia in it for the money?

“There wasn’t ever any money exchanged to the moderators of the website,” Peck continued. “Chris Garcia, however, was actively posting that he was in fact dating these prostitutes.”

Asked if the evidence showed Garcia had a hooker problem, Peck replied, “Yes.”

Garcia’s distinguished career came crashing down two years ago when he was arrested and accused of promoting prostitution.

“I couldn’t believe it,” Koch said. “That’s not the Chris Garcia I knew.”

A search of his campus office revealed sex toys and porn and his university computer was seized. At APD, Garcia declined to give a statement to detectives.

Two years later, the criminal case against Flory and Garcia came to an abrupt end. Because New Mexico’s prostitution laws were first written in 1921, 50 years before the invention of the home computer, the New Mexico Supreme Court ruled an online call-girl service did not meet the legal definition of a house of prostitution.

Without the possibility of a successful prosecution, the district attorney dropped the case and closed the Southwest Companions criminal file. Today boxes of unused evidence sit in storage. Flory resigned from Fairleigh Dickinson and did not respond to a request for comment.

Garcia would not agree to be interviewed about his role in the call girl operation. He did, however, offer an apology.

“I’m sorry for any mistakes I made,” Garcia said.  “I apologize to my wife, family, friends, and the UNM community.”

Garcia’s affiliation with the University of New Mexico has been suspended. A UNM spokeswoman says the university may permanently revoke Garcia’s affiliation.

Asked if Garcia were to walk in the room right now, Regent Koch told us, “I would grab his hand and shake it and give him a good hug and say, ‘Good luck.’ “

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