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Chagrin in high places over D.C. escort firm

A U.S. official has quit. More names may follow. ABC has 46 pounds of phone records.

McLEAN, Va. - A prominent military consultant and a Bush administration official have already been linked to a Washington-area escort service that prosecutors contend was a prostitution ring. More names could be disclosed soon.

Deborah Jeane Palfrey, 51, of Vallejo, Calif., is charged in federal court with racketeering and money-laundering associated with prostitution.

She contends that she ran Pamela Martin & Associates as a "legal, high-end erotic fantasy service" and that the women who worked for her signed contracts in which they promised not to have sex with clients. Prosecutors say she knew the 130 women she employed over 13 years engaged in prostitution.

Palfrey has said she gave ABC News 46 pounds of phone records because she hoped a network investigation of the data would compel customers to testify they did not engage in sexual conduct with the escorts.

Senior State Department official Randall Tobias resigned from his post last week after ABC confronted him about his use of the service. He previously directed international AIDS relief programs for the Bush administration that promote abstinence and require grant recipients to sign a pledge opposing prostitution. Tobias has said he obtained massages but denied having sex with the escorts.

In court papers filed last month, Palfrey named Harlan Ullman, known as an author of the "shock and awe" combat strategy, as a regular customer. Ullman's attorney, Marc Mukasey, said yesterday that Palfrey should not assume that Ullman will give helpful testimony on her behalf. He declined to elaborate.

On Thursday, a lawyer for Palfrey said an instructor at the Naval Academy was one of the service's escorts and ABC reported that a secretary at a prominent law firm was another escort.

Palfrey told ABC that most of her escorts worked for her because they needed the money. Palfrey said she urged the women who answered her newspaper and phone-book ads to think seriously before signing up.

"Many of these girls had never done this kind of work before," Palfrey said.

Palfrey said some of the most popular women were in their 50s. She said that there was never an age limit and that most of the women worked about three shifts a week, ending each night at 11.

"I made sure they either worked or went to school in the daytime," she said.

Montgomery Blair Sibley, Palfrey's civil attorney, confirmed a report in the Navy Times that an academy instructor worked as an independent contractor for Palfrey's service. Sibley said he did not know whether the person was still at the academy.

An academy spokeswoman said she had no information about Sibley's contention.