Albuquerque Police arrested former UNM president F. Chris Garcia today on charges of promoting prostitution, tampering with evidence and conspiracy, according to Metropolitan Detention Center records. His bond is $35,000 cash.
The arrest follows an investigation into a prostitution ring police say was owned by David Flory, a physics professor at Farleigh Dickenson University in New Jersey. The sex-trafficking club was run through a website called Southwest Companions, which was based in Albuquerque but had arms reaching into Phoenix and Denver, according to detectives. The site wasn't publicized—members discovered it through word of mouth.
Flory was arrested Sunday, June 19, at the Nob Hill Starbucks after he logged into his site, according to the Albuquerque Police Department.
Lt. William Roseman says Southwest Companions included 1,200 johns and 200 prostitutes, primarily from the Albuquerque-Santa Fe area.
Garcia, (screen name BurquePops, police say), was president for one year in 2002 and was the first Hispanic to hold the position. Under his watch, enrollment increased 18.5 percent and included more Native American students than in years past. Born and raised in Albuquerque, Garcia graduated with his bachelor's and master's degree from UNM and began teaching there in 1976. He is an emeritus professor, and though he has an office at the university, he wasn't scheduled to teach any classes during the summer session, according to the Huffington Post.
Thus far, APD has said Southwest Companions doesn't seem to be connected to any other universities.
Roseman said at a news conference today that Garcia was a moderator on the site, along with six other men. There were levels of involvement for new customers, he said, starting with a probationary, moving to “verified” and then to “trusted.” In order to leave the probationary phase, men would have to have sex with a prostitute, he said, and then the prostitute would send an email describing the act and fee to the moderator.
APD spokesperson Trish Hoffman says some vice squad detectives had to become trusted members to infiltrate the site, though they held different statuses.
The organization also included a seven-man hunt club, a group dedicated to finding new prostitutes in nearby cities, Roseman said. New Mexico's 2008 human trafficking law may come into play, he added.
Roseman said it's unclear whether Garcia made much money moderating Southwest Companions. In the days preceding his arrest, Garcia was attempting to pull down his posts and delete all connection to the site, said Police Chief Ray Schultz.
Prostitutes for Southwest Companions cost between $200 and $10,000, according to detectives. That indicates some high-class clientele, they added. “There's probably some pretty nervous people out there right now,” said Chief Public Safety Officer Darren White.
The investigation got underway in December of 2010 after a prostitute connected to Southwest Companions was arrested, according to APD. The most trusted members had access to a counterintelligence board called the weatherboard, Roseman said. When prostitutes were arrested, they would write up descriptions of the undercover officers, their cars, their scars or tattoos. Detectives say they've seen other prostitution rings online, but none this organized.