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With the pieces of the puzzle falling into place, Price began having Kimmel’s cars pulled over in hopes of leveraging information from the prostitutes who were driving them. In one instance, troopers pulled over a woman after a rendezvous she had arranged with two men at a Detroit Ramada Inn. The woman told police that Kimmel was a friend of her dad. Pulled over a second time, she told officers that Kimmel was a friend who let her drive his car. Eventually she confessed that Young was her pimp and that he sometimes had his prostitutes fly to Chicago carrying money for a dentist named Gary Kimmel. Another woman also told an arresting officer that Young once asked her to ship $20,000 in a shoebox via Federal Express to the dentist, a claim later corroborated through FedEx records.
Independently, the FBI had been looking into the connection between Kimmel and Young as part of “Innocence Lost,” a nationwide investigation into human trafficking launched in 2003 by the U.S. Department of Justice. “We ended up working the case together,” Price said.
Special agents began wiretapping conversations between Kimmel and Young, including several made by the dentist from his downtown Chicago office. In one series of phone calls in the summer of 2005, the two men griped about a prostitute allegedly working for Young. The woman had apparently taken off with one of Kimmel’s cars, a Corvette, and the two men discussed what to do if she refused to return it. Kimmel favored a measured approach. Young spoke along more primitive lines.
“She’ll scare straight,” Young said, according to a transcript of the conversation.
“She commented that you threatened to kill her or have her killed,” Kimmel replied.
“Doc, don’t be nice to these girls, man,” Young answered. “I’ll get the car. I’m going to fly someone up there to get it. I’ll pick her up and slam her on her f—–g back. . . . I’ll cut all them legs off for you.”
In other conversations, the men discuss money to be sent to Kimmel, as well as the headaches caused when Young’s prostitutes were pulled over. “I think we’re going to have to rethink this whole deal,” Kimmel told Young. “We’re probably going to have to start getting these things [the cars] out of my name. I’ll help you get ’em when you need ’em, but you’ve gotta move ’em.”
Still, it wasn’t until October of 2005 that they began to realize that the authorities were closing in. On October 13th, Young called Kimmel in Chicago with a warning: “The state boys are raiding my house right now. You should be getting a call.”
“It’s good you told me before they got to me,” Kimmel responded. “Is there something they have on me?”
“I don’t know what it’s about,” said Young. But “you don’t have to answer mack. . . . I’m just giving you a heads-up in case they contact you.”
Detective Price called Kimmel four days later. Reaching the dentist at his Erie Street practice, the detective began asking questions for which Kimmel had no good answers. Price noted, for instance, that one of Kimmel’s cars was registered with a Michigan address. Kimmel explained that he kept an apartment, number 212, at 18701 Grand River Avenue in Detroit. He’d been in and out of there six or eight times in the past six months, he told Price. In fact, as the detective had already discovered, the address was for a UPS store and the number 212 was a mailbox number, not an apartment. “I didn’t even tell him I knew,” Price says. “I just let him keep talking, and saved that to tune him up with later.”
Next, Price asked about Young. Did Kimmel know Young was a pimp? No. Had he ever visited Young’s home? Yes. “We’re friendly,” Kimmel said. “Never had a problem with the guy.”
Did Kimmel realize that several of his cars might have to be forfeited because they were being used in connection with a prostitution ring? “Oh, Jesus,” Kimmel replied. “I had no idea about this thing and I’m really upset about it.”
Finally, Price delivered the coup de grâce. “I’m just curious,” the detective said. “You have eight vehicles and more than half are being driven by a pimp and prostitutes?”
Kimmel responded, “Well, see, I don’t know that; that’s the first time I’m hearing something like this. . . . It sounds like I’m going to need an attorney.”
Price told me the call would have been amusing if the matter hadn’t been so serious. “Let’s just say [Kimmel] is not the sharpest knife in the drawer when it comes to the criminal world and trying not to get caught,” the detective said. Price found Young’s answers, when he questioned him later that same day, to be equally evasive and self-serving, though with a street-hardened insouciance. Asked how he made his living, Young volunteered that he ran a porn site. Pressed, Young explained, “They give me gifts.”
“Who?” Price asked. “The girls give you gifts? What kind of gifts?”
“Everything. Clothes, coats, money. Everything.
“Girls like me,” Young continued. “They like my style, they like the way I dress, they like the way I carry myself, they like the way I respect them.”
Toward the end of the conversation, Young offered what may be the punch line to the tale of the dentist and the pimps, the best explanation of how someone like Kimmel got mixed up with someone like Young in the first place. “He just likes exciting people, that’s all,” Young told Price. “That’s why he likes me.”
FBI agents arrested Kimmel last November in the parking lot of Marina City as he stepped out of his Mercedes SUV. “They put me in handcuffs, took me to the FBI office, and basically kept me chained to a bench from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.,” Kimmel recalls. What was going through his mind? “I was thinking about my wife and kids,” he says. “That was it. I’ve been through enough trauma that this wasn’t a big deal. It was just another day for me.”
While Kimmel was “chained to a bench,” he says, agents raided his home, and later the Montrose Avenue practice of Rosalina Robles. At Kimmel’s dental office on Erie Street, which has since been shut down, the agents told those arriving for morning appointments, “He’s not taking patients today.”
A group of investigators, including Price, later went to Las Vegas, where they found Young holed up alone in a hotel. Authorities flew Young back to Detroit, where a judge denied him bond because of a long criminal history, including convictions for illegal weapons, prostitution, and drugs. He currently awaits trial on a 27-count federal indictment. The charges include sex trafficking of children, transportation of a minor across state lines for criminal sexual activity, distribution of child pornography, making threatening interstate communications, and money laundering.
In January, Patrick Fitzgerald called a press conference to announce the indictment of Kimmel, Young, and several others authorities say were involved in the prostitution ring. (Spears’s federal indictment was unsealed in July. He too has been charged with sexual exploitation of children.) According to Fitzgerald, Kimmel accepted more than $400,000 from Young and Spears.
Of the 11 luxury vehicles owned by Kimmel, five-including the Corvette, the Lexus, and a 2005 Mercedes-Benz-were seized. Authorities are currently in the process of trying to seize the nine Marina City apartments owned by Kimmel.
At Marina City, “Kimmelgate” has provided an ongoing source of gossip, disgust, and mocking humor-in the hallways, on several blogs, and in the downstairs lobby where a group of retired women who call themselves the “Couch Babes” gather to discuss the day’s events. “I’m just glad it wasn’t my dentist, who just gave me some oral surgery Tuesday night,” a man named Steven posted on Chicago.metblogs.com. A writer for New City Chicago, a former Kimmel patient, described his reaction to the news by writing, “Not that I’m not already afraid of dentists with all their pointy-cutting things and cheerful willingness to drill holes in your bones. But . . . Holy shit! [Kimmel] has more than once had his fingers in my mouth.”
The arrest has also tapped into an undercurrent of anger on the part of many residents at the response to the scandal by the Marina City Condominium Association. For starters, neighbors are incensed that Kimmel was head of the condo board’s security and screening committee, a position that would have made it easy for him to bring in shady tenants, they say. “I don’t pretend to say that all the problems in Marina City are related to the Kimmel case,” says Doyle. “But I don’t think anything occurs in a vacuum. And once Kimmel happened, it was a wake-up call to people in the building.” Part of that call has been a lawsuit against the condo association and the condo board, questioning issues of internal governance. Several residents want to know whether the board knew what Kimmel was up to-the board’s president, Donna Leonard, is godmother to two of Kimmel’s children-and, if board members didn’t know, how could they have been so blind?
Leonard says that neither she nor the board knew anything about Kimmel’s alleged activities. “I found out about this only from a Chicago Sun-Times reporter,” says Leonard. “To say I was shocked is an understatement.” She points out that no complaints were made to the building about prostitutes or pimps. As to the 2004 prostitution arrest in one of Kimmel’s apartments, Leonard says police are not obliged to report such incidents, and they didn’t in that case. She has responded cautiously to the scandal because the charges made against Kimmel were, as this story went to press, still mere allegations.
Both Rosalina Robles and her assistant, Idalia Merlor, meanwhile, say they are still mystified at how Kimmel could throw away a career by partnering with, of all people, pimps. “Why would he do this? It’s so dirty,” Robles says. “I know he was making a lot of money as a dentist. I guess everyone has their dark little secret.”
Kimmel and his family continue to live in the 56th-floor residence in Marina City, which, on the spur of the moment, he agrees to show me one late summer afternoon. He leads me first into the living room, where his children play on the shiny hardwood floors under a nanny’s watchful eye. Down a hallway, framed photographs of him in high school hang next to pictures of his wife and children. For a time shortly after his indictment, he had put the dwelling up for sale; asking price: $1 million. But now he says that, if it’s at all possible, he doesn’t want to leave-either the building or the three-condo home he and his wife have created. It’s easy to see why not. Granite counters and expensive tile and baker’s glass (which he says he installed) create a home worthy of a magazine spread. The master bedroom is small, but it opens onto a wide bathroom dominated by a large Jacuzzi. And, of course, “there’s the view,” he says, nodding toward a sweeping curve of windows that opens onto the stunning downtown panorama, the vista he wants desperately to hold on to, the one that haunts him when he thinks of the prospect of a prison cell.
Earlier, in the downtown office where I first met Kimmel to discuss the scandal that had shattered his reputation, jeopardized his ability to stay in his home, and perhaps finished him as a dentist, he groped for words to explain how he had gotten himself into such a mess. “In hindsight, there should have been a red flag going up,” he said. As he spoke, he looked as miserable as a root canal patient. “My biggest problem is I’m a people person,” he said, shaking his head. “I’m a little too soft and too trusting.” As he uttered the words, he looked down at his hands, as if searching for a Novocain needle to numb the reality in which he has found himself. Instead, in the late afternoon, clad in his T-shirt and scuffed shoes, the dentist summoned an expression he had urged on so many who had come to him in pain. A smile.