By Chris Joseph
By Chris Joseph
By Deirdra Funcheon
By Chris Joseph
By Chris Joseph
By Chris Joseph
By David Minsky
By Michael E. Miller
Dressed in a faded pair of jeans cut off just below the knee and a clean, white wife beater with a tiny two-piece swimsuit underneath, grooving to a Mudhoney CD spinning in her boom box, Ginger looks more like a student rocker than a part-time hooker. "You could make good money working for Arthur," she says, referring to a man she contends was once her pimp, Arthur Vanmoor. "But you really had to work!" Ginger makes her own hours now that she's independent. Rarely, she explains, does she awaken before noon if she can help it.
The curtains are drawn in room 103, darkening the kitchenette in the Intracoastal motel that is Ginger's base of operations this afternoon. A small color TV is tuned to the Discovery Channel but flickers silently on mute. The 26-year-old, dye-job redhead scoots across the tile floor in big, fuzzy slippers to answer her cell phone. After providing vague directions to the caller, she says sternly, "I don't feel comfortable discussing that on the phone." Then she's all smiles, scooting back to the couch, friendly and forthcoming, prone to using phrases like "yackety shmackety." Only a few sad, gray teeth reveal Ginger's rough-and-tumble past. Though she advertises services on a local website, www.independentgirls.com, Ginger doesn't want her last name used for this article. "My family lives down here, dude," she says, a wave of her burning cigarette putting a smoky end to the discussion. "Are you kidding?"
A little more than two years ago, Ginger had a job bartending at a little hangout in Boca Raton. But when the place closed, "I was in a bad position," she admits. Then she saw an ad in a local newspaper seeking escorts. "So I answered it," she says. "I figured, 'Hey, I can do this -- it's no big deal. '"
She called the number, and, like eight other women who have given statements about Vanmoor to prosecutors, she was sent to an office near I-95 and Sample Road in Pompano Beach. Indeed, the statements from the eight, who have names like Sarah, Queenie, and Cintia, generally confirm Ginger's version of a typical escort's first day on the job: "You walk in, and they hire you immediately," she recalls. "And for the first call you have to go on -- and they don't tell you who it is -- they say, 'Oh, you have a regular, a guy who sees the girls as soon as they get hired.' And that's Arthur, but they don't tell you it's Arthur."
Echoing the statements from the other escorts as well as police surveillance, Ginger claims she met with Vanmoor at a Day's Inn near the office. "He answered his door in this ratty green Speedo-type underwear," Ginger recalls. "And he's so matter of fact! He didn't make me comfortable at all. After I showed up, he just looked me over and basically said, 'OK, suck my dick. '"
During which, Ginger says, Vanmoor kept himself occupied by watching television. Then he attempted to gauge Ginger's skills by determining how suggestible she was. "The second time I saw him, about a month later," Ginger continues, "he tried to do the Greek thing. And I told him that wasn't gonna happen. He tried not to wear a condom. He would try to talk you into things you did not want to do. He would see how much he could get away with. He's not nice. He's not pleasant." She pauses a moment before softly recollecting this odd tidbit: "Although his genitalia always smelled like gingerbread, which I never understood."
These days, Arthur Vanmoor sits in a Broward County jail cell, accused of money laundering, racketeering, and conspiracy along with various prostitution-related raps. Not far behind the detectives are immigration officers, who want to deport Vanmoor.
Prosecutors allege that the Dutch-born mogul's escort business made him a millionaire. True to stereotype, his (leased) rides have included a white 1991 Rolls-Royce and a speeding-ticket-red Ferrari. And before legal woes derailed his empire, court documents show, Vanmoor made his home on Hillsboro Mile. He evidently had a penchant for top-dollar cribs: one beachfront home cost him $18,000 a month; another "rooftop garden apartment" in a nearby high-rise rented for $11,000 monthly.
The gruff Dutchman is something of an anomaly in the vice business. When he wasn't running an escort service, Vanmoor, who is a member of Palm Beach County Mensa, donned his inventor's hat, churning out patents for a cancer cure, a caulking gun, and a male chastity belt -- a halter-like contraption that suggests a modern version of a medieval torture device. In fact, between 1995 and 2003, Vanmoor obtained 52 U.S. patents. The first was for an antishoplifting tag; since then, he has patented high blood pressure cures, menstrual cramp remedies, axial flow fans, sulfur-based compounds to enhance one's immune system, and something called a "bone cement injector gun."
Vanmoor has been arrested twice for alleged pimping. When Fort Lauderdale vice officers first collared him -- on prostitution and pandering charges in 1998 -- he played an impressive game of hardball, hiring a pair of private dicks to dig dirt on detectives. In December 2001, prosecutors dropped the more serious charges. Vanmoor pleaded no contest to three counts of soliciting a prostitute in May 2002.
But police didn't give up. They believe Vanmoor quickly returned to oversee his escort empire, and last June, they busted him again. Even from jail, Vanmoor is making ends meet. Last March, he sued a California bank and credit card firm, alleging it had illegally held onto a security deposit he'd put down to cover bogus charges billed to his business. In a videotaped deposition, Vanmoor -- wearing "sunglasses and a black sports coat with 'sparkly things in it,'" according to online comments by a judge who was present -- sneered at the camera or turned his face away from it.
The lucky streak of the man who cops allege used the alias "Big Pimpin' Pappy" stuck around, though. He won the case. Last summer, a California jury awarded him $3 million in damages.
The lawyer now in charge of defending Vanmoor refused to let New Timesvisit his client in jail. "We have serious charges pending," Sidney Z. Fleischman explains. "Racketeering, money laundering, conspiracy -- he can't be answering questions. He probably would like to, but we're not going to."
Arthur Vanmoekerken was born in Amsterdam on February 19, 1960. When he and his wife, Jennifer, divorced in May 2003, he claimed to have been a U.S. resident for the past 12 years. His name surfaces in public records in 1995, when he filed a U.S. patent for the antishoplifting tag from a North Miami Beach address. Around that time, or perhaps before, he apparently turned his attention to the South Florida escort trade.
By 1997, Vanmoor had snared such a noticeably large portion of the escort business that police couldn't help but be aware of him. Prosecutors contend that Vanmoor grew his enterprise by saturating listings in the local Yellow Pages; they estimate that 90 percent of escort-related ads in the Fort Lauderdale phone book in the late 1990s were connected to companies owned by Vanmoor and that he had as many as 100 women working for his agency full-time. Calling any listing from AAAAaaardvark Escorts on down rang lines in Vanmoor's drab Fort Lauderdale office. Girls would appear at the door in a matter of minutes. "The Yellow Pages asks you to pay up-front for a year, and he had the capital to do it," comments Jack Perry, owner of Jack and Elaine's, a rival escort service.
His primary company, Amber's Executive Models, was in a cinder-block bunker off I-95 in Fort Lauderdale. One February evening in 1997, vice detective Barry Margolis arranged to meet one of Amber's girls at a nearby hotel room, according to an affidavit. After charging $200 to his American Express card, "the female ultimately agreed to perform oral sex on me, and I terminated the session," Margolis wrote. Detectives tailed the escort back to the office at 2200 W. Commercial Blvd., then left, preferring to gather more evidence before filing charges.
The $200 "consulting fee" showed up on Margolis' credit card bill as "Security Services 2000," based in Hollywood, Florida. When Fort Lauderdale police subpoenaed records from American Express, they learned that Vanmoor was doing more than $15,000 worth of business a month, at an average charge of $250.
During the ensuing months, authorities continued to arrest escorts connected to Vanmoor. One of them, Ruth Rodriguez, contends that she was required to give $80 to the service from each call if it was a cash transaction; the company would get $100 if it was via a credit card buy. Her report was generally confirmed by at least 12 additional escorts. "Amber's is considered a high-volume escort service that handles approximately 80 clients a day," Margolis noted in his affidavit. "Based on that volume and the average cost of $200 per session, this business appears to gross approximately $6 million annually."
Fort Lauderdale police executed a search warrant on Amber's Executive Models on February 9, 1998, arresting Vanmoor and several employees. Prosecutors had already hit Vanmoor with felony charges including violating RICO -- Racketeering, Influence, and Conspiracy -- statutes as well as living off the earnings of a prostitute, procuring a person under 18 for prostitution, and engaging in unlawful sexual activity.
During a court hearing, Fleischman repeatedly attempted to have the case thrown out, at one point alleging that Margolis employed "unusual methods" and saying his client had been the victim of "prosecutorial vindictiveness." Even the judge assigned to the case, Barry Goldstein, seemed to admit as much. "I don't think there's any doubt that the detective went out of his way," said Goldstein, according to court transcripts. "The detective put extra emphasis on Mr. Vanmoor. I don't know why, except maybe he's disgusted with the type of operation Mr. Vanmoor is running. It appears that Mr. Vanmoor was targeted by the office, but not illegally so."
In December 2001, the Broward State Attorney's Office dropped those charges, citing "lack of evidence." Other charges were eventually reduced to misdemeanor soliciting counts. In 1999, he was sentenced to six months' probation and ordered to pay $65,000 in restitution to the Fort Lauderdale Law Enforcement Trust Fund.
After his release from jail, Vanmoor found himself evicted from his office; police had confiscated everything in the room, including $1,200 in cash. Eventually, though, Goldstein ordered such items as a Foosball table, telephones, office equipment, a stereo, and a pinball machine returned to Vanmoor.
But the Dutchman continued to fight back with a flurry of lawsuits. He sued Broward County, the detectives involved in his case, and the landlords who evicted him. He sued the cities of Oakland Park and Pompano Beach and various police officers, claiming his civil rights had been violated. Then he targeted Broward Sheriff Nick Navarro. And when New Times published a story about him ("The Sex Empire Strikes Back," July 17, 1999), Vanmoor sued the newspaper, complaining about, among other things, an erroneous line stating he'd been charged with "procuring a person under 16 for prostitution." New Timesran a retraction acknowledging that the charge related to a person under 18 and asked the court to toss the suit, and the escort company owner dropped it. All of the other suits were either dismissed or eventually dropped as well.
In October 1999, Vanmoor told Sun-Sentinel reporter Jose Lambiet that he'd spent more than $5,000 on a private investigator and turned him loose on Margolis. The results were hardly earth-shattering, though the investigation poked around the detective's past so deeply that it uncovered a job application at the Flaming Pit restaurant in Pompano Beach from 1980, three years before Margolis joined the force. Vanmoor claimed Margolis had lied about being an assistant manager when he was -- a-ha!-- merely a busboy. The Dutchman's private dick also tracked down Margolis' ex-wife in Maryland, where she testified that he'd been a cheating louse. Vanmoor handed over this "evidence" to the Broward State Attorney's office and used it as part of a civil lawsuit against Margolis that he filed in March of 1999. Most of the accusations appeared to be thinly veiled character-assassination attempts, and the state's attorney's office declined to investigate further. But the civil case against Margolis is ongoing; it will be heard in Broward County Court in March.
After escaping the most serious charges against him, Vanmoor went back to earning a living. Using new names like Budget Escorts and All You Can Eat Escorts, by the end of 2000, he had opened a new office and hired new girls, police say. Fort Lauderdale Detective William Spodnick alleged Vanmoor was operating more than 300 escort agencies of various names under the umbrella of a corporation called Florence Dating Service. He even began publishing a magazine called Xotic.Police say this uplifting publication allowed Vanmoor to bypass others that wouldn't accept his ads, which were sometimes too racy even for glossy sex magazines available at strip clubs and adult video stores. In particular, says one police affidavit, a rival magazine, Xcitement, refused to publish Vanmoor's ads, which, for example, featured photographs of a nude girl with a splash over her vagina crowing "EAT THIS."
A corporation registered in September 2000 to Vanmoor called Centennial Media published the magazine, and two of the contributors listed in the masthead were Arthur Vanmoor and Sidney Fleischman. After police called some of the numbers listed in Xotic in early 2001, as well as escort want ads in the Sun-Sentinel, they were again back on Vanmoor's trail.
Vanmoor's talents are hardly limited to his alleged pimping. He also makes a mean male chastity belt. United States Patent Number 5,845,642, "Safe Sex Assurance Device," is his baby. Accompanied by a wince-inducing diagram, the gadget is to be "worn as an undergarment which cannot be removed without destroying the device. The device is worn in order to guarantee that the wearer has been sexually faithful to one's partner," according to an abstract filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office via the Fort Lauderdale law firm of Laurence Greenberg. Also including a handy-dandy "testicle retaining ring," the contraption, patented in 1997, is part of a roster of 52 Vanmoor innovations such as a hangover remedy, escalator guardrails, and a rotary engine. None of the schematics for those inventions can hold a candle to old number 5,845,642, however.
"Can you spell genius?" asks Fort Lauderdale patent attorney Werner Steemer, who works in Greenberg's office, acknowledging that Vanmoor's smarts have "possibly driven him into the easy money, as it were. Genius gets on everybody's nerves, and society often takes affront to the new ways a genius can think."
Back in 1996, the brainy Dutchman was issued a U.S. patent on a "Caulking Gun and Cartridge with Afterflow Prevention." This was novel, according to the inventor's abstract submitted with the design, because there was no messy, post-plunging seepage.
In July 1997, Vanmoor began pursuing legal action against manufacturers such as Sonoco and retailers like Wal-Mart, Builder's Square, and Home Depot, claiming they'd ripped off his spooge-free caulk-gun idea. In early 2000, a federal appeals court ruled that Vanmoor's trade secrets had not been violated when the retailers sold the caulking apparatus under names like Glidden's "Liquid Nails" and DAP's "Alex Plus."
"Mr. Vanmoor believed -- and still believes -- that they infringed on his patent," Steemer says. "Unfortunately, the courts disagreed, probably because of his illustrious other career. Who would want to decide on behalf of Mr. Vanmoor, escort owner, as opposed to Wal-Mart and Sonoco? I do believe that justice is blind in many respects, but in this case, it may have had a bearing."
Steemer says he's enjoyed working with Vanmoor but adds: "I wish he didn't do some of the things he does. But I certainly had a completely professional relationship with Arthur Vanmoor. Every time he came to my office, he always wore a nice shirt and nice jacket and behaved very businesslike."
Intent on snaring Vanmoor with the same RICO charges he had avoided in 1998, Fort Lauderdale police in 2000 renewed their investigation of his businesses with vigor.
They were in for some surprises. Twice in 2001, when police sent undercover officers to meet with Vanmoor, an affidavit shows, he answered the door wearing only bikini underwear.
And according to detective Spodnick's report, police determined that, after his release from jail in 1999, Vanmoor had used the identity of a Fort Lauderdale cop, Brian Dodge, to open various merchant accounts at area banks. He then used those accounts to process Visa, Mastercard, and American Express card charges. According to Spodnick, "a review of the account activity during this time showed an average of just over $100,000 a month was being transferred into this account from the Visa and Mastercard transactions" processed under Dodge's name. Vanmoor, police allege, also created two Florida corporations associated with the cop's name that were actually escort agencies.
On September 21, 2002, Lauderdale police showed up uninvited at Florence Dating Service, located at 100 E. Sample Rd. The cops allegedly found employee files with photocopies of women's driver's licenses and comments from Vanmoor regarding applicants' first visits. Records of "calls for service" and credit card slips were discovered.
According to Spodnick, cops also uncovered a list of escorts' "Rules and Regulations." Hours of operation, fees, and processing of credit cards were covered. Also included were directives stating that escorts were not to spend more than 45 minutes with a customer and that a client should be allowed to ejaculate only once per session. Then there was rule number seven, which read, "You have to suck dick without a condom. For the other stuff you can use it if you wish. But absolutely not on the sucking."
Vanmoor wasn't arrested until June 2003, after Fort Lauderdale police decided there was enough evidence to make the charges stick. Yet even while he sat in jail, police allege, he continued to run his escort businesses. That same month, they arrested Cintia Russman, who had initially been charged with RICO/conspiracy along with Vanmoor but was eventually released on $50,000 bond. Police allege Vanmoor paid to get her out of jail so she could "immediately return to work as an escort" and "repay the $5,000 in cash (10 percent of the bond amount) that was paid as her bond."
When police realized what Vanmoor was doing, they moved to have phone service terminated to his various businesses. He also ran afoul of his landlords, who moved to have him evicted from his oceanfront estate at 1085 Hillsboro Mile after a check bounced. At one point last year, he was two months in arrears -- to the tune of $37,825, including late fees -- court records show.
Authorities recently allege that he falsified his green card application, and they threatened to deport him. He posted $750,000 bond in criminal court in July, was ordered to surrender his passport, and was transferred to immigration-authority custody at Krome Detention Center in Miami. In September, the Broward State's Attorney's Office asked a judge to revoke Vanmoor's bond. The judge agreed. Soon, Vanmoor will face a jury of his peers.
Broward County's escort business is brazenly high-profile. Advertisements (including those in the back of this newspaper) matter-of-factly promise release and satisfaction to any guy with $200 and a hard-on. While the ads pledge pampering and pleasure, life on the providing side is often dangerous and demeaning.
A large percentage of the local working-girl pool has had some contact with Vanmoor's business. "When girls come over here," rival escort service owner Jack Perry says, "on their applications, we ask, 'Where have you worked?' And more often than not, they write down 'Arthur the Asshole' or something like that."
After a reporter's query, Perry calls back and permits a phone interview with one of his current girls who claims she once worked for Vanmoor. "We'll call her Susan right now," says Perry, handing the phone over to a young woman who says she started working for the Dutchman in 1999, when she was 19. Before another line rings and she's called for duty ten minutes later, she confirms some of the more salacious details described by other escorts in court papers as well as the alias Vanmoor was fond of using -- "Peter Gundher." According to Susan, it was common knowledge among the pool of escorts that Gundher/Vanmoor was the agency's owner. "He was nice at first," she says, "just so you can put up with him. Then he's really bossy."
In a March 1998 court deposition, a 30-year-old escort named Berta Brock testified that Vanmoor's sexual proclivities included some unusual behavior -- in particular, the practice of coprophagy. Questioned after her arrest, Brock told police during her testimony that "Vanmoor paid her $600 for some of her feces. She supplied him with the feces, and he ate it in front of her."
In 2001, after Fort Lauderdale police arrested Florence Dating Service worker Ruth Rodriguez in a sting operation, she agreed to cooperate. Rodriguez, now 33, continued to work and gather information for police, and on May 23, she was sent by the agency to the Days Inn at 4211 N. Federal Hwy. There, according to Spodnick's affidavit, she met Vanmoor. "He was only wearing underwear when he greeted Rodriguez," the report reads. "At this point, Vanmoor told her to sit down as he masturbated himself in front of her." After asking her to have sex with him, Rodriguez refused and began to leave. "Vanmoor then asked if she would do a favor for him and 'pee' (urinate) into a cup because he wanted to drink it in front of her," the report continues.
Theoretically, even without trading excrement for tips, escorts working for Vanmoor could generate some serious coin. If only the cards weren't so stacked against them: For starters, on nearly every call, they were required to throw $20 to the driver of the car that took them to the hotel, Susan and Ginger contend. Plus, the women claim, most of the girls working the agency route have drug problems. "Still, I made really good money," Susan says. "I made $1,000 a night there. Well, actually, I made $2,000, but they got half."
Ginger says the agency kept its escorts busy. "You could easily do 12 calls a day working for Arthur," Ginger says, "and that's a lot. The biggest time of year was the boat show. They would send you down in teams, and you'd do, like, 20 calls a day."
Eventually, working with Vanmoor became less lucrative due to the system of fines and penalties he would levy against those women in his employ. "He would fine you for being late," Ginger says, smacking the ass-end of a pack of smokes on her coffee table. "You would think they'd want you to cultivate a 45-minute call, so [the customer would] want to see you again, but Arthur wanted you in and out and going back out on another call. They got a percentage, so it was in their interest to send you out as much as possible. If they thought you took too long to take a shower and get back to the office, they'd fine you for that. He would fine you for not being dressed right. Sometimes you had to wear heels and a dress. [The rules] were never consistent."
According to police surveillance and the escorts themselves, Vanmoor's employees had to work shifts at the office, some as long as 12 hours, whether or not they had a date. "He treated you like you were literally a piece of meat -- it was like a sweatshop," Ginger says.
Apparently for Vanmoor, this was an effective technique for keeping track of the women staffing his agency. "One time, he fined me $80 times six," Susan says. "He said I was seeing his clients outside of the service. If you stopped getting requests -- like, if you had a guy requesting you every Saturday for two months and then he stopped calling you -- [Vanmoor] would say that you were seeing him outside of the service, and he would fine you. Or they'd cut you off and not give you any work."
The office was rigged with audio and video recording equipment, say police who raided the agency. "The room had a couch, a TV, and a pool table," Ginger says. "They had an intercom, and they'd listen to your conversation. And they would listen in and fine you if they knew you were talking dissent. They'd call you in and fine you for a conversation you thought you had in private."
"They take the cell phones from the girls," Susan continues, "and if it rings while confiscated, they'll answer it. They don't care if it's your mother or who it is."
Ginger confirms this, saying the company kept tabs on customers by keeping a list of callers whose numbers were captured via Caller ID. "When you walked in, you had to give them your cell phone. They'd go through it to see if any of the numbers matched up with any of the people who had suddenly gone missing from the call list." Eventually, Vanmoor and some of his phone managers became convinced that Susan was seeing clients on her own time. "So they told the other girls to keep my phone and fire me," she says. "And they burnt it! They broke it into two pieces, and they burned the battery."
Ginger grew tired of the job and quit. "If there was anyone threatening to unionize girls in that office, it probably would have been me," she laughs as she stubs out a cigarette. "Arthur didn't like me because I wouldn't put up with any of his crap. He doesn't like a lot of sass." When she left, she says trouble seemed to be dogging the agency -- Ginger even thinks the IRS may have been on his trail. Indeed, a bankruptcy court document shows that in 1998, he owed the feds $169,878.
Even behind gray walls, Vanmoor has enjoyed conjugal visits from Lady Luck. During the 1997-98 investigation, Detective Margolis said he had discovered evidence that a California bank -- Humboldt Bancorp of Roseville -- was allowing the Dutchman to launder the money he was bringing in via his illegal escort operation by transferring funds from the bank to a Smith Barney account.
At first, Humboldt Bank "refused to honor my subpoena," Margolis testified. However, his tactic ultimately proved successful when, in October 2001, the bank, along with Cardservice International and Mastercard International, agreed to terminate its arrangement with Vanmoor's agencies. For five years, the companies had processed as much as $50,000 a week generated by Vanmoor's businesses at rates more than triple what low-risk ventures would carry. After he'd been dumped, Vanmoor sued them in March 2002, charging that the companies had blacklisted him by advising other credit-card processors not to provide service to him.
On August 8, a Los Angeles jury awarded a pair of his companies -- Security Network Inc. and Custom Tooling and Service Inc. -- $3 million in punitive damages after determining that Humboldt, Cardservice, and Mastercard had withheld $150,000 of his funds "without legal justification." The story even caught the attention of Forbesmagazine, which printed a short story about Vanmoor on November 10, 2003.
Vanmoor's victory stunned legal observers. "The fact that Mr. Vanmoor found a California attorney to go to court for him while he was busy changing large rocks to small ones in no way altered the basic radioactive nature of this lawsuit," William T. Bedsworth, associate justice of the California Court of Appeals, wrote in a column published on www.greensheet.com by the Orange County Bar Association. "If the bank had put a Geiger counter next to the complaint, it would have gone off like Ginger Baker on speed. Call me cynical, but I think Mr. Vanmoor's chances of staying in this country have improved substantially. Now if he can only get out of jail.
"The jury may have gotten this one exactly right," Bedsworth continued. "But it may have also been, in the words of the venerable legal maxim, 'Incarceratus in propia persona habeat magnum mojo. '" Bedsworth adds that Tennessee Ernie Ford translated the maxim -- usually interpreted as "a person in prison has great power" -- as "If you see me comin', better step aside."
"I'm sure glad this file is on its way to another court of appeal," Bedsworth concluded. "It'll save me the trouble of steppin' aside."
And even though he's locked up, patent attorney Steemer says, Vanmoor has come up with more inventions. In fact, he has a slew of recently registered patents, including cartridges for semi-automatic sidearms, propellers for marine applications, and fixed-wing fuselage designs. "Just yesterday, we worked on a new patent," Steemer says. "Would you believe every once in a while I hear 'You have reached the end of your allotted time' when we're talking? I'm sure it doesn't tickle his imagination to be in there behind gray walls, but he always puts the best slant on things."