New York governor linked to prostitute ring

(dpa) - New York Governor Eliot Spitzer, who made his name going after corporate corruption and prostitutes as a prosecutor, was weighing his resignation after he was linked to a high-price call-girl ring.

Spitzer, known as Mr Clean and the Sheriff of Wall Street for his fight against crime, acknowledged Monday that he had engaged in wrongdoing but did not confirm newspaper and broadcast reports that he had been linked by investigators to prostitution.

According to prosecutors, the ring, called the Emperor's Club, provided women to well-heeled clients in New York, Paris, London, Miami and Washington. The club charged 1,000 to 5,500 dollars an hour, The New York Times reported Tuesday.

Four people were charged last week for operating the ring. It was not clear if Spitzer faced criminal charges, but the career of the man once considered presidential material was in tatters, and his staff told New York newspapers that he was considering stepping down as governor.

"The governor is doing some soul-searching and really taking time to think things over," a source told The New York Daily News Tuesday.

In court documents, Spitzer is identified as Client 9, a man who set up illicit sex sessions by phone.

Specifically, he arranged for a New York prostitute to travel to Washington on February 13 and paid for a room at the posh Mayflower Hotel, reports said.

He was reported to have paid her 4,300 dollars. The verbal transactions were wiretapped by the FBI, which was called into the case by the US tax agency, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), media reports said.

The investigation began in the fall when IRS agents, followed a paper trail of money wired by the governor and other clients to companies that turned out to be shell corporations using names such as the QAT Consulting Group, QAT International and Protech Consulting, the Times reported.

Spitzer is the latest US figure to have preached the moral high road and fallen from grace for indulging in the very behaviour he condemned. In 2006, for instance, the pastor of a large evangelical church in Colorado, Ted Haggard, who condemned homosexuality, was found to have kept a male prostitute and lover for years.

Spitzer made a public apology Monday without mentioning the prostitution case. With his sober and dazed-looking wife, Silda, at his side, the 48-year-old father of three said he had "acted in a way that violates my obligations to my family."

"I've disappointed and failed to live up to the standard I expected of myself," he said. "I must now dedicate some time to regain the trust of my family. I will report back to you in short order."

The governor began informing senior aides of his involvement in the ring after being told of the investigation by federal officials Friday but attended a Washington dinner and evening of political satire Saturday, reports said.

Spitzer has made many enemies during his swashbuckling career, and he received little support from his fellow members of the Democratic political community.

A cheer went up on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange on the first reports of Spitzer's links to the call-girl ring, the New York Daily News reported.

Spitzer met his wife of 21 years at Harvard Law School. He was elected attorney general of the state of New York in 1998. In addition to going after corporate malfeasance on Wall Street, a task force he set up busted a Staten Island prostitution ring and arrested 18 people in 2004.

Spitzer used the prosecutor's position as a stepping stone to the governor's mansion, winning election in 2006.

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