Brothel madam Maryellen Mayer sent to prison after raid on Middleport massage parlour
POLICE say they are cracking down on the sex trade after a former pottery worker was jailed for running a brothel.
Fifty-three-year-old Maryellen Mayer made £23,000 running a massage parlour in Middleport before it was raided by police.
She is starting an eight-month prison sentence after being convicted at Stoke-on-Trent Crown Court on Friday.
Sergeant Peter Slinn, based at Burslem police station, said: "We are trying to stamp out these premises that are acting illegally as brothels.
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"This is the first case that has gone through to conviction so we are pleased with the outcome, and it is pleasing for nearby residents and businesses.
"This sentence shows the courts don't look lightly on the offence. Hopefully it will send out messages to other people in Stoke-on-Trent who wish to operate brothels."
Mayer started running the Newcastle Street brothel after ill health forced her to retire from the pottery industry.
Bored of sitting at home on benefits, the court heard she saw the brothel as an opportunity to run a business.
She took it on in March 2008 and ran it until it was raided by police in January.
Punters would hand over £40 a time, of which £27 would go to the working girl. Mayer would pocket £10, while £3 was set aside for "cleaning".
The court heard Mayer would receive about £500 a month, so it was estimated she had made £23,000 during her time at the helm. She had worked as a prostitute herself for around nine years, and would fill in at Academy when she was short-staffed.
During the court case, Mayer's barrister Jason Holt said: "Mrs Mayer worked for 30 years as a lithographer, until she developed repetitive strain injury in her arm.
"For a short period she received incapacity benefit but she was bored. She was offered this opportunity and rather naively thought there was nothing wrong with it. Everyone who worked with Mrs Mayer speaks fondly of her."
The court heard the five prostitutes who worked for Mayer were aged between 25 and 50, were not drug users and many were just supplementing their income from other jobs.
The premises was regularly visited by the police. But on January 16 officers raided the brothel.
They found two women dressed in lingerie, and two customers. One of the men said he had been visiting Academy every week for two years.
Police seized client lists and details of the parlour's finances. Mayer pleaded guilty to keeping a brothel.
Her sentence was reduced from what would be usually handed out for this type of crime because the police had allowed the brothel to stay open for four years.
A financial investigation is underway and a Proceeds of Crime Act hearing will follow, which could see Mayer forced to repay all her ill-gotten gains.