An anonymous tip led to an undercover prostitution bust at the clubhouse of one of the city's famed Mummers brigades, with two club officials and 11 others arrested amid a clubhouse raid, police said Wednesday.
As part of a six-week investigation, undercover officers went Tuesday night to the Downtowners Fancy Brigade, one of the clubs that parades through Philadelphia on New Year's Day, Deputy Commissioner William Blackburn said. The officers were told by a tipster that there were prostitutes at the clubhouse on the second Tuesday of every month.
When the officers arrived, they were charged a $30 cover charge for beer and other refreshments and found 50 to 60 men and about 15 to 20 women inside, with many of the women naked or partially naked and performing sex acts, according to police. The officers were offered sex for money and sex acts were being performed in public view, with the women charging $30 to $100, police said.
Two of the men arrested, Alfred Sanborn, 44, of Philadelphia, and John Murray, 56, of Deptford, N.J., are club officials, according to police. Police identified Sanborn as a steward and Murray as a financial secretary. They face liquor violations and criminal conspiracy; the club did not have a liquor license, police said.
A third man who is not affiliated with the club also was charged. Ten women were arrested on prostitution charges.
Telephone calls to the club were not immediately returned Wednesday, and working telephone numbers for the men could not be located. Police said they confiscated several thousand dollars but there was no evidence that money from prostitution was going back to the Mummers.
The Mummers Parade, often called Philadelphia's Mardi Gras, is a century-old tradition in which costumed revelers march through the city on Jan. 1. The parade is composed of elaborately festooned musicians, comics and other performers from different clubs that compete for prizes and bragging rights.
The Downtowners Fancy Brigade, one of the biggest and most successful of the Mummers marching brigades, won its first championship for its presentation in 1964. It advertises its clubhouse and banquet room space for use by outside groups.
In a statement, the Philadelphia Mummers Association said it was shocked and denied any connection to the alleged prostitution ring.
"This was not a Mummers' prostitution ring nor a Downtowners Fancy Brigade prostitution ring," said the statement, which added that the group was "shocked" by the alleged behavior of the group that rented out the club. "If the allegations are true, the Mummers and the Downtowners organization are as much victims of this as anyone else."
The club is cooperating with the investigation, the statement said.
"If it is determined that any members of the Downtowners were involved, it was most definitely without the knowledge or approval of the club itself," it said.
The two men affiliated with the Mummers were not charged with prostitution but were aware of what was happening, Blackburn said.
"They were aware of what was happening," he said, "because it was done in open view."