The former UNM president accused of running an online sex ring could be off the hook after a judge ruled Monday that brothels can’t exist in cyberspace.
New Mexico law defines a house of prostitution as a “place where prostitution is practiced, encouraged and allowed,” and according to court documents from Monday’s hearing, a website, online message board or computer is not a place of prostitution.
The case is on hold following Monday’s ruling.
F. Chris Garcia and David Flory, a professor at a New Jersey university are both accused of running the online prostitution ring Southwest Companions. On June 23, 2011, Garcia was arrested and charged with promoting prostitution, tampering with evidence and conspiracy for his alleged involvement with Southwest Companions, a 1400-member, multistate operation.
According to KRQE, the New Mexico law that defines what is and is not a brothel hasn’t been updated since 1981, before the advent of the Internet as the world now knows it.
Matthew Coyte, the vice president of the New Mexico Criminal Defense Lawyers Association, told KRQE that Southwest Companions was simply a site that connected prostitutes and potential clients.
“Connecting people to do whatever they want to do is not illegal, it never has been,” he said.
Coyte does not represent Garcia or Flory in the case.
In the more than 50 years Garcia was employed at UNM, he served in positions such as provost, vice president of academic affairs and arts and sciences dean. He assumed the role of UNM president from August 2002 to July 2003.
According to APD, Garcia used the Internet handle “Burque Pops” “and was one of seven site moderators known as the “hunt club.”
According to a June 2011 Daily Lobo report:
“Moderators are in charge of bringing in new clients and prostitutes and vetting members to ensure they are not law enforcement agents. Garcia and other moderators are paid little, if anything, for their moderation duties, Lt. William Roseman, the detective in charge of the case, said.”
KRQE reported Garcia and Flory could still face other charges related to the case and that prosecutors could appeal the judge’s decision.