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Sunday, November 18 Local

Westport man set free after guilty plea in sex trafficking guilty case

DANBURY — Moments after becoming the first person convicted under a 2013 state law against human trafficking, Westport resident William Trefzger walked out of court Friday as a free man.

Trefzger and two other men had been charged last year with involvement in a sex-trafficking ring, which authorities said had been forcing young men with mental disabilities into prostitution for more than two decades.

Trefzger, who was accused of patronizing the ring, accepted a plea deal Friday after agreeing to testify against Robert King, who police said masterminded the scheme, and Bruce Bemer, said to be another of its longtime clients.

The deal called for a 10-year prison sentence, suspended after one year served, and 10 years of probation. Trefzger had been in custody since his arrest last spring and was released within hours of the plea.

Bemer rejected a similar deal last week that called for probation without any prison time.

Authorities have said that victims of the ring, most of them young men with mental illnesses or disabilities, were plied with drugs until they accumulated large debts and then pushed into prostitution to pay them off.

Edward Gavin, a Bridgeport-based attorney who represents Trefzger, said his client has cooperated with authorities since his arrest and has given a full statement about his participation in the ring.

Trefzger pleaded guilty to one count of patronizing a trafficked person, marking the first time anyone was convicted of trafficking under state law. Human trafficking is more often dealt with in federal courts.

“As part of the deal, you will have to cooperate with the state’s case and testify against Bemer and King,” Judge Susan Reynolds said in court Friday.

“Yes ma’am,” Trefzger replied.

Lyn Marino, whose son was a victim of the ring and later died in an auto accident during a police chase , was in the courtroom Friday.

”I hope Trefzger, Bemer and King are imprisoned for the rest of their lives, just like they enslaved my son with drugs so they could abuse him,” she said afterward in a written statement provided to The News-Times. ”They are responsible for the loss of my precious son, Sam. To them he was just another addict. But my son Sam is mourned by his entire family and extended family.”

King befriended members of her family while providing drugs to Sam and selling him to men like Trefzger, Marino said.

“These men have no morals and no remorse,” Marino wrote in her statement. “I have no forgiveness in my heart for what they have done to my family.”

Jillian Gilcrest, chairperson of the Connecticut Trafficking in Persons Council, praised law enforcement last March for charging patrons of sex traffickers.

“(I)f there wasn’t any demand, then we wouldn’t have any trafficking” she said shortly after members of the ring were arrested last year.

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Bemer’s attorney, Anthony Spinella, said his client hopes to avoid a felony conviction, which is why he refused to accept the plea deal.

Marino and several other victims and their families have filed civil lawsuits against the defendants. Bemer, a wealthy businessman who owns the Waterford Speed Bowl, has already agreed to set aside $25 million of his assets for a potential judgment.

Joel Faxon, an attorney representing several victims in the lawsuit, said their families could take some solace in the fact that a member of the ring took responsibility for his crimes.

“Given that Trefzger has agreed to fully cooperate with the authorities, it’s only a matter of time until King, and particularly Bemer, experience the same uncomfortable reality of a long term prison stay,” he said.

After Trefzger entered his guilty plea, Reynolds reduced his bond from $250,000 to a written promise to appear for his sentencing on March 28, when he will receive credit for the year he spent in jail while the charges were pending.

dperrefort@newstimes.com

Dirk Perrefort|Business Reporter

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