The Columbus Dispatch


Monday, February 22, 1993

By By Randall Edwards

Dispatch Staff Reporter

Anthony D. Mennucci claims to be destitute now, but he made a lot of money providing women to the wealthy for sex, police and other sources say.

Mennucci, 41, of 1981 Willow Glen Lane and Martin Costello, 43, of 177 E. Kossuth St. were charged Feb. 8 in U.S. District Court in Columbus with racketeering and money laundering.

Mennucci has a court-appointed attorney to defend him against federal charges that he ran a high-priced prostitution ring, disguised as an escort service, and laundered the money through local businesses.

Costello is free on $15,000 bond. No bond has been set for Mennucci, who remains in the Franklin County jail. On Friday, U.S. Magistrate Mark R. Abel said Mennucci would not be freed unless he can find a job and post a $50,000 surety bond.

Court hearings over the past week have unveiled a simple but lucrative business that police say grossed $87,000 in a two-month period.

Sources said Mennucci dressed well, carried large amounts of cash and had a membership at the Little Turtle Country Club. Sex with Mennucci was considered a prerequisite for employment, confidential sources have told police.

He solicited escorts and clients through classified ads placed in The Dispatch. Men paid $225 to spend an hour with an escort in Mennucci's North Side condominium or in motel rooms, say court documents and sources close to Mennucci's business.

One source said $25 went to the woman who answered the telephone and set up the appointment. The rest was split evenly between Mennucci and the escort. Confidential sources told police and investigators for the Internal Revenue Service that the escorts had sex with the clients 98 percent of the time, said Officer Wayne Wingard of the Columbus police vice squad.

The escorts reimbursed Mennucci for the cost of the advertisements, and Mennucci also fined them if they arrived late for an appointment or took too long with one client while another waited, one source said.

In return for his $100, Mennucci provided the house, condoms, a place to take a shower and some food and drink for the escorts, the source said.

As many as 30 appointments were scheduled in a day, the source said, and Mennucci kept meticulous records that included the client, method of payment and ''what he preferred,'' the source said.

The source said the clients included ''doctors, lawyers and stockbrokers,'' many of whom visited weekly.

During a search of Mennucci's condo Jan. 27, police found condoms, handcuffs, body oils, paddles, the personal diary of one escort and computer records that showed a client list with 519 names, IRS agent Richard Lewis testified Friday.

Under cross-examination, Lewis said the confidential sources used in the investigation are former escorts for Mennucci, some of whom have been convicted of prostitution many times. The sources have been promised immunity from prosecution if they cooperate in the case, Lewis said.

Many of the business records were kept by Vanessa Williams, one of Mennucci's escorts and a girlfriend who lives at 1757 Hightower Dr., court documents say.

Williams interviewed two undercover Columbus police officers who answered an advertisement Mennucci placed, court documents said. The police officers were not told they would have to have sex with clients.

Confidential sources told police Mennucci became suspicious last September that his house was being watched by the police, and he paid one escort, Saundra Sepsy, $5,000 to remodel her home, confidential sources told police.

Lewis said prices could vary. ''Regulars got a discount; if there were two girls, it was more,'' he said.

Mennucci spent a lot of money on himself, one source said. Receipts and bank records found during the searches indicate Mennucci spent $1,366 on a topcoat and $2,945 for two suits and two pairs of shoes at Godfry's, a men's clothing store; more than $3,000 on a coat at Jacobson's; and $384 on a briefcase. As recently as December he spent $1,257 for membership fees at Little Turtle Country Club.

Under cross-examination, Wingard said police did not recover any of those items in the search.

Williams could not be reached for comment. Sepsy denied receiving $5,000 to remodel her home but refused to answer any other questions about the case.

All content herein is 1993 The Columbus Dispatch and may not be republished without permission.