Franklin child prostitution ring allegations

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The Franklin child prostitution ring allegations were a series of high-profile accusations and legal actions surrounding an alleged child sex ring serving prominent citizens of Omaha, Nebraska, as well as high-level U.S. politicians. The scandal centered around the actions of prominent political fundraiser Lawrence E. King, a former official at the Franklin Community Federal Credit Union in Omaha.[1][2] King was eventually arrested and convicted of embezzlement charges.

The allegations were investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Franklin Committee, a specially convened bipartisan Nebraska State legislative committee. In January 1990, Nebraska Attorney General Robert Spire ordered the empanelment of a Douglas County grand jury. In July 1990 the grand jury report concluded that many of the allegations amounted to a "carefully crafted hoax" although the alleged perpetrators of said hoax were never identified. While the grand jury accepted that King's three principal accusers had been sexually abused, it found that they had misidentified those responsible. One of the accusers, Alisha Owen, was subsequently convicted of perjury after refusing to retract her testimony and was sentenced to nine to 15 years in prison. Another of the principal accusers, Troy Boner, recanted his testimony. Perjury charges against the third accuser, Paul Bonacci, were dropped after he was cited as mentally incompetent to stand trial. The Franklin Committee denounced the grand jury's findings, alleging a coverup.

King eventually served 10 years of a 15-year prison sentence for embezzlement and fraud, but was not charged or convicted of sexual crimes with minors. In 1999 Bonacci was awarded a $1M default judgment after King failed to respond to related civil charges.


Child abuse and prostitution allegations

Allegations linking the Franklin Credit Union to a child prostitution ring began to surface in 1988, during an unrelated federal investigation into financial malfeasance at the credit union. In its 1988 report, Nebraska's Foster Care Review Board made several allegations of pedophilia against Lawrence King and detailed claims of Boys Town students being transported across state lines for sexual exploitation, requesting a law enforcement investigation. News of the abuse allegations made national headlines when the New York Times reported on December 18, 1988 that the "Omaha office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation acknowledged that it had independently received reports of sexual abuse and that they were a subject of its own criminal inquiry into the credit union affair."[3]

On January 10, 1989, the Nebraska state legislature convened the Franklin Committee to look into the allegations, with Nebraska state senator Loran Schmit as chairman. On January 30, 1990, Nebraska State Attorney General Robert Spire called for a grand jury to investigate the allegations. On February 6, 1990, former County District Judge Samuel Van Pelt was appointed a special prosecutor for the Douglas County grand jury, which convened on March 12, 1990.

On June 29, 1989, six months after the Franklin story was reported in the New York Times, news of a male prostitution ring with ties to high-level U.S. politicians was reported by the Washington Times in an article bearing the headline "Homosexual Prostitution Inquiry ensnares VIPs with Reagan, Bush."[4] The Washington Times article, by Paul M. Rodriguez and George Archibald, alleged that key officials of the Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush administrations were connected to an elaborate Washington, D.C. male prostitution ring, and reported that two of these prostitutes even entered the White House late at night. The allegations included, among other things, charges of "abduction and use of minors for sexual perversion." The Washington Times article made no mention of a possible connection to Lawrence King or the Franklin case.

Grand jury findings

Beginning on March 12, 1990 the grand jury investigated allegations of sexual abuse made against Lawrence E. King, District Court Judge Theodore Carlson, columnist for the Omaha World-Herald Peter Citron, Omaha World-Herald publisher Harold W. Andersen, Omaha chief of police Robert Wadham and businessmen Alan Baer, Michael Hoch and Kenneth Bovasso, as well as other Nebraska persons and institutions. On July 23, 1990, after hearing many hours of testimony, the county grand jury threw out many of the allegations concerning sexual child abuse against those accused, labeling the charges a "carefully crafted hoax [...] scripted by a person or persons with considerable knowledge of the people and institutions of Omaha," but without identifying who perpetrated the hoax.[5] The grand jury accepted that Paul Bonacci, who was serving time in prison after having been convicted two years prior on unrelated charges for sexually assaulting a minor,[6] Troy Boner and Alisha Owen had been sexually abused, but not by the people they had identified.

According to a July 8, 1992, article that appeared in the Omaha World-Herald, the grand jury noted that Citron had already been charged with molesting two young boys in an unrelated case, but said he had no connection with the Franklin case. Citron served a prison term of three to eight years on two charges of sexual contact with boys. The grand jury indicted Omaha businessman Alan Baer on two unrelated charges of felony pandering. Baer was eventually fined $500 after pleading no contest to a reduced misdemeanor charge of aiding and abetting prostitution. The charges against Baer were for alleged sex acts between consenting adults; no minors were involved according to a special prosecutor assigned to the Baer case.[6] The grand jury suspected King may have been involved in pandering, because he engaged in sex with men in their late teens or early 20s; they declined to indict him for sexual crimes only because he had already been indicted for major financial crimes associated with the Franklin Community Federal Credit Union.[6]

Members of the Franklin Committee that originally recommended empaneling the Douglas County grand jury eventually denounced the grand jury findings, responding in their final report:

"To assume that the 'hoax' was crafted assumed the existence of a craftsman. Who was it? To state that it was 'carefully crafted' assumes someone with intelligence and enough knowledge of accurate facts to make the 'hoax' credible. ... We can find no clear evidence which conclusively establishes what was the truth and what was a hoax."[6]

Perjury trial

During the trial Boner, Owen and Bonacci were informed by the judge that they could be indicted for perjury if they did not retract their testimony. Boner retracted his testimony, but Owen and Bonacci both refused. Owen's attorney, Pamela Vuchetich, disengaged from the case in April 1990, stating in an Omaha World Herald article that she believed Owen's account of the abuse, but that a "conflict of interest" had forced her to step down. Vuchetich subsequently represented Terry Clements and Danny King, both of whom testified against Owen. A complaint was lodged and Vuchetich was required to appear before the Nebraska State Bar where she repeated her reason. However, in a January 2000 deposition, Vuchetich stated that she "withdrew as her legal counsel because Alisha [Owen] was going to commit a crime ... the crime of perjury. ... Alisha told me that what she had to say wasn't the truth and she was going to stick with it."[7] Vuchetich later admitted that during the period when she was representing Owen she had been in a relationship with FBI agent Mott, a key witness against Owen.

In 1990 Owen was convicted of perjury for her grand jury testimony, and was sentenced to nine to 15 years in the state penitentiary. Paul Bonacci, another witness who told a similar story to the grand jury, had also been indicted but his perjury charges were dropped upon Owen's conviction; the court cited Bonacci's psychiatric problems and stated he was incompetent to stand trial.

Owen's appeal was later denied on the grounds that her lawyer did not object to the hearsay evidence which made up the majority of the evidence against her. After serving approximately 4 1/2 years (two years spent in solitary confinement), Owen was paroled in 2000 on the basis of her exemplary behavior in prison. In 1993 Boner again changed his story in a affidavit, stating that his original testimony and that of Owen was true and that he retracted it only because the FBI threatened him with a long prison sentence if he did not.[8]

Lawrence King convictions

King was eventually convicted of embezzling $38 million as manager of the Franklin Community Federal Credit Union.[9] According to the original December 18, 1988, New York Times article, Nebraska state senator Ernie Chambers stated King's involvement in the Franklin scandal was "just the tip of an iceberg, and he's not in it by himself."[3] Who or what exactly Chambers was referring to remains unclear, however, the New York Times reported Chambers claimed to have heard credible reports of "boys and girls, some of them from foster homes, who had been transported around the country by airplane to provide sexual favors, for which they were rewarded."[3]

Bonacci case

On February 1, 1991, former Nebraska state senator John DeCamp filed a civil suit alleging sexual abuse on behalf of Bonacci, against King and the Catholic Archdiocese of Omaha. The federal judge removed the diocese from the lawsuit, ruling that the archdiocese could not be expected to "know what individual priests had been doing" in Boys Town and an appeal against the removal failed.

Bonacci won a default judgment of $800,000 in compensatory damages and $200,000 in punitive damages in the civil action against King. The judge declined to consider the merits of the petition's allegations, but ruled that the failure of King's legal representation to answer the charges "has made those allegations true as to him."[10][11]

The default judgment was awarded February 14, 1999, by senior U.S. District Judge Warren Urbom of the United States District Court for the District of Nebraska in Omaha, following the failure of defendant King's representatives to appear in response to the charges.[11] King was in prison at the time, having been sentenced in June 1991 to 15 years (3 consecutive 5-year sentences) following his conviction in the criminal case.[12] An appeal of the $1 million judgment against King was filed, however he dropped the appeal in January 2000. King was released from prison April 10, 2001.[13]

Coverup allegations

The 1990 grand jury report came less than two weeks after private detective Gary Caradori was killed when the small plane he was piloting broke up in flight over Illinois. Caradori had been hired as lead investigator by the Franklin Committee as they explored the allegations of sexual child abuse. Franklin Committee Chairman Senator Loran Schmit told the Omaha World-Herald that "[Caradori] believed that something was going to come out of this investigation. He believed that the evidence was there to be developed and that things couldn't stay under cover forever."[14]

In 1990, the Schiller Institute, a German-based organization associated with conspiracy theorist Lyndon LaRouche, created a ten-member group called "Citizens Fact-Finding Commission to Investigate Human Rights Violations of Children in Nebraska." Led by Reverend James Bevel, the group gathered signatures on a petition asking the legislature to extend Senator Schmit's investigation.[15] Additionally, the Executive Intelligence Review, a LaRouche publication, published an article which alleged that children associated with the Franklin prostitution ring had been murdered in satanic rituals. Reprints of the article were distributed in Omaha and Lincoln.[16] Institute members Webster Tarpley and Anton Chaitkin also wrote about the Franklin Credit Union scandal and its alleged connection to the Washington prostitution ring in a book titled George Bush: The Unauthorized Biography. The book was published by Executive Intelligence Review in 1992.[17]

Former Nebraska state senator John DeCamp, who was close to the original Franklin investigation and provided legal counsel to several of the alleged victims in the case (including Paul Bonacci), eventually authored and self-published a book titled The Franklin Cover-up: Child Abuse, Satanism, and Murder in Nebraska. In the book, DeCamp alleges Lawrence King was operating a child prostitution ring based in Omaha, and that it was used to serve prominent citizens in the local area, as well as high-level U.S. politicians in Washington D.C. and elsewhere. DeCamp also describes what he alleges to be a coverup. The book was first published in 1992. A second, revised edition of the book was published in 2006.

In 1993 the British-based TV station, Yorkshire Television, sent a team to Nebraska to launch its own investigation of the Franklin case. The resulting 56-minute documentary, "Conspiracy of Silence" was scheduled to air nation-wide on the Discovery Channel on May 3, 1994. More allegations of a coverup came to light when the documentary was pulled from programming days before it was due to air. A leaked copy of the documentary has since surfaced on the Internet. The film features an interview with former CIA director William Colby, numerous members of the Nebraska state legislature including John DeCamp, and alleged victims in the case.[18]

In 2009, a book about the scandal and alleged coverup, The Franklin Scandal: A Story of Powerbrokers, Child Abuse & Betrayal, was published by investigative journalist Nick Bryant. The book was published by Trine Day, a small publishing company whose mission statement reads, "TrineDay ... arose as a response to the consistent refusal of the corporate press to publish many interesting, well-researched and well-written books with but one key 'defect': a challenge to official history that would tend to rock the boat of America's corporate 'culture.' TrineDay believes in our Constitution and our common right of Free Speech."[19]

The investigative work of the Nebraska State Franklin Committee led to the passing of Legislative Bill 1246. Among other things, the bill established a special unit in the Nebraska Attorney General's Office to assist county attorneys in prosecuting child abuse cases.[6]


  1. ^ Associated Press Omaha Tales of Sexual Abuse Ruled False The New York Times. September 27, 1990
  2. ^ Associated Press Trial is delayed in Omaha Scandal The New York Times. March 31, 1990
  3. ^ a b c William Robbins. A Lurid, Mysterious Scandal Begins Taking Shape in Omaha. The New York Times. December 18, 1988.
  4. ^ Paul M. Rodriguez and George Archibald. Homosexual prostitution inquiry ensnares VIPs with Reagan, Bush. copy and scanned images of original 29 June 1989 article in The Washington Times.
  5. ^ William Robbins. Omaha Grand Jury Sees Hoax in Lurid Tales. The New York Times. July 29, 1990
  6. ^ a b c d e Franklin Panel Faults Grand Jury's Conclusion Archived Omaha World-Herald Pg 1 July 8, 1992
  7. ^ Deposition of Pamela Jones (Also known as Pamela Vuchetich) January 5, 2000
  8. ^ Troy Boner Affadavit October 27, 1993
  9. ^ William Robbins. Nebraska Inquiry Is Given File on Sex Abuse of Foster Children. The New York Times, 25 December 1988, retrieved 18 January 2008
  10. ^ District court decision Released February 22, 1999
  11. ^ a b Robert Dorr. "Bonacci Gets $1 Million in King Lawsuit" Omaha World-Herald, February 24, 1999.
  12. ^ David Thompson. Franklin Attorneys Say Case Isn't Over. Omaha World-Herald, 18 June 1991.
  13. ^ Robert Dorr. Omaha World-Herald "King release to close book on Franklin" January 28, 2001.
  14. ^ Dorr, Robert; Gabriella Stern (July 12, 1990). Omaha World - Herald (Omaha, Neb.): p. 1. 
  15. ^ Dorr, Robert (January 6, 1991). "Man Seeks Franklin Committee Extension". Omaha World - Herald.: p. 1.B. 
  16. ^ Dorr, Robert; Gabriella Stern (Aug 12, 1990). "Story in LaRouche Magazine Concerned Parents Founder Says Article Distorts Truth". Omaha World - Herald: p. 1.B. 
  17. ^ Tarpley, Webster; Anton Chaitkin (1992). George Bush : the unauthorized biography. Washington D.C.: Executive Intelligence Review. ISBN 9780943235059. 
  18. ^ Conspiracy Of Silence 1994
  19. ^


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