Friday February 15, 2013

NEAL P. GOSWAMI

Staff Writer

BENNINGTON -- An alleged prostitute linked to an ongoing criminal investigation into a local prostitution ring names six male clients and five other women she claims are involved in prostitution in a recorded interview released to the Banner on Thursday.

The audio recording between Kayla Foucher, 23, and investigators with the Bennington Police Department was made in late September. In the recording, Foucher said at least two men directed women to clients.

The office of Bennington County State’s Attorney Erica Marthage released the recording to the Banner on Thursday. The Banner had requested the recording from Bennington Superior Court Criminal Division after it was cited as evidence in a court proceeding by prosecutors. Judge Cortland T. Corsones said in a hearing Thursday that no motion to seal the evidence had been sought by any party and the court had issued no order to seal it.

Foucher has been linked in court documents to at least three men charged with soliciting prostitutes in Bennington.

She told the Banner in an interview last week that she had sex for either money or drugs with two men -- Thomas Lyons, owner of Bennington Subaru, who she knew at the time as "Owen," and Preston Foster, 50, the owner of Foster’s Cannery.


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Six men are named by Foucher in the recording that she claims to have had sexual contact with for either drugs or money. Foster and "Owen" were named by Foucher, as well as Michael Gates, "Eddie Red Cross," "Will," and "Rich."

"Owen" is described in the audio recording as a white male in his 50s.

Foucher said in a recent interview with the Banner that she learned Owen was Lyons after viewing a Bennington Subaru commercial on television that featured Lyons.

Lyons has not been charged with any crime. He has been under investigation for possible involvement in a prostitution ring since late December, however, according to police. Several search warrants have been executed in the case by the Bennington Police Department, including two at the home and business of Lyons.

Lyons’ attorney, David F. Silver, has filed motions to seal those two search warrants, as well as another search warrant granted to police for the Facebook account of Jason Balsh. Corsones has ordered the first two sealed, which the Banner is appealing, and ordered a hearing on the Banner’s request for the other.

Another search warrant, packaged with the two served against Lyons, targeted Jennifer Onorato. An affidavit used by police to obtain the warrant indicates she helped connect Foucher with Balsh on Facebook.

Police believe Balsh to be fabricated. Bennington Police Detective Anthony Sylvestro has previously told the Banner they are investigating the possibility that Lyons has portrayed himself as Balsh on Facebook.

Silver also attempted to seal the search warrant targeting Onorato but Corsones ordered that it be released with some redactions.

Foucher said in her recorded interview with police that Balsh directed men to her and other women.

In the recording, Foucher told police that she provided them with names of clients that Balsh arranged for her to meet. She also said she provided police with a list of women that also worked for Balsh.

Foster pleaded not guilty last month to a misdemeanor charge that he solicited a prostitute. Court records allege that Foster provided Foucher with crack cocaine in exchange for sex.

Foucher told police of two encounters that she had with Foster and said he gave her both crack cocaine and money in exchange for sex. She said she would meet him in a truck that has "Foster’s Cannery" written on the side.

Gates, 52, of Bennington, pleaded not guilty last month to 12 counts of selling cocaine, two counts of permitting drug sale within a dwelling, two counts of conspiracy to sell drugs and one misdemeanor charge of solicitation.

Foucher was asked by police in the recording if she had sexual encounters as many as 20 or 30 times with Gates. "Something like that," Foucher replied.

According to Foucher, the encounters with Gates would take place at his School Street residence and he would provide crack cocaine for sex.

Foucher described "Will" as a skinny, black male in his late 20s. According to Foucher, he gave her crack cocaine for sex less than ten times at the Autumn Inn motel in Bennington.

William D. McLaughlin, 34, whose address is listed in Troy by the court, has pleaded not guilty to myriad charges, including solicitation. A police affidavit supporting the solicitation charge details the story Foucher told police in the audio recording.

McLaughlin has also been charged with and pleaded not guilty to a misdemeanor simple assault. According to court documents in that case, McLaughlin allegedly assaulted Foucher for speaking with police one day after the recorded interview with police.

Foucher described "Rich" in the recording as an older black male that drives a silver Honda. She told police she had five sexual encounters with him at her former apartment in exchange for drugs.

Foucher said she knew of several women who were involved in prostitution, including Danielle Thompson, Danielle Lake, Jennifer Onorato, Gabrielle Barney and Harley, for whom no last name was given.

"There’s quite a few" other woman involved in prostitution, Foucher said, but did not know their names.

Foucher said she was familiar with the women she named through drug activity and prostitution. Some of them were also connected to Balsh on Facebook, she said.

Foucher said in the recording that she would accept either drugs or cash, "whatever they offered," in exchange for sex. It worked the same way "for all of us," she said.

Foucher told investigators that Danielle Lake worked for Balsh. Danielle Thompson, meanwhile, worked for both Balsh and Foster. Thompson often worked together with Harley, Foucher said.

According to Foucher, Harley introduced her to Foster about two months before the recorded interview. She said Foster attempted to have her work for him. "I just pretty much told him no," Foucher said to investigators.

Foucher said Harley told her "that (Harley) worked for him and he’d pay me well."

"She could go and get pretty much whatever she wanted from him, whether it was drugs or money. I don’t know exactly how much, but whatever she needed he would give it to her," Foucher said in the recorded interview.

Foucher said she never met Balsh, never received money or drugs from him and only communicated with him electronically. Foster was more involved with Harley, according to Foucher.

"His (relationship) was a little more intense than mine was with Jason, I guess. Jason, I never met him face-to-face, and he never gave me money or drugs. But, Preston, with Harley, it was different. He’d give her drugs and money," Foucher said.

Foucher told investigators that Preston also directed Harley to go out and meet other men.

Gabrielle Barney worked as a prostitute "way before I did," Foucher said. Barney worked with Foucher, according to the recording, two or three times when Foucher was meeting with "Owen."

Foucher told investigators that she did not know who, if anyone, Barney was working for.

Onorato, meanwhile, was the person that introduced Foucher to Balsh on Facebook. Foucher said Onorato’s role appeared to be "pretty much to help Jason get girls."

Foucher said in the recorded interview that she had been working as a prostitute for "almost five months," beginning in March or April of 2012.