MIAMI (AFP) - Robert Kraft, the owner of the reigning NFL Super Bowl champion New England Patriots, was charged on Friday (Feb 22) with soliciting prostitution, police in Florida said.
The 77-year-old businessman, whose club beat the Los Angeles Rams just 19 days ago in Atlanta for its third title in five seasons, was charged in connection with an investigation into an illegal massage parlor operation, said Daniel Kerr, the Jupiter, Florida police chief.
There is video evidence of all 25 men who are being charged with solicitation, Kerr said, adding the police were surprised to discover Kraft - a friend of President Donald Trump - among those frequenting the parlour.
"We're as deeply stunned as anyone else," Kerr said.
A spokesman for Kraft released a statement refuting the charges, saying: "We categorically deny that Mr Kraft engaged in any illegal activity. Because it is a judicial matter, we will not be commenting further."
Kraft has not yet been arrested on the two misdemeanour charges.
The charges were made as part of an eight-month investigation into human trafficking that included surveillance in five spas and shutting down 10 in a case prosecutors say had links to China and New York.
Police say Kraft twice visited the Orchids of Asia day spa, with video evidence showing him paying for a sex act inside the business, one of several where police intervened over the past few days.
Kraft has been a frequent visitor to Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida, with Trump tweeting his congratulations to the Patriots - including Kraft, quarterback Tom Brady and coach Bill Belichick by name - for reaching the Super Bowl and after past championships.
Belichick and Kraft were among the Patriots delegation that visited Trump in the White House in 2017 after their Super Bowl victory over Atlanta.
Kraft handed Trump a personalised Patriots jersey during the visit.
Kraft, whose wife Myra died in 2011, became the principal owner of the Patriots in 1994 and has seen the club win six NFL crowns in all.