Old madams never really retire; they just give the occasional piece of advice to working girls when they’re hanging out in their old pals’ (alleged) brothels.
Or that’s what 61-year-old grandmother Julie Moya told me when I visited her at Rikers Island earlier this month. Moya has been behind bars since June, her first time locked up since finishing a nearly two-year sentence in 2007 for running what Manhattan prosecutors had described as a $3 million-per-year prostitution ring.
“I don’t understand it,”Moya said of her new travails in a half-hour interview from Rikers’ lockup for women, the Rose M. Singer Center.
Just after her last release, the Ohio native had told a Daily News reporter that she had been married at 13, had her first child at 14, and then remarried an Argentine drug kingpin who’d saved her from working as a prostitute before she was 25.
Then she was arrested in the 1990s while delivering three kilos of cocaine to an East Harlem bodega owner. After cooperating with law enforcement, Moya said, she was sentenced to five years’ probation.
“Drugs kill people,” she says a DEA agent told her. “Why don’t you do something harmless, like run a brothel?”
So the mother-of-three returned to sex work, this time taking a cut from other women’s flesh.
Ten years and eight figures later, Moya had women working out of five Midtown apartments and her home on Long Island, catering to a clientele that she said included cops, lawyers, doctors and a notable music producer who “pulled a gun on a couple of girls a few times" while high.
While Moya was widely referred to as “New York’s friendliest madam”—and the “madam with a heart” because she had long taken in stray animals—authorities also alleged her sex ring used “children,” including a 15-year-old girl, reports indicate.
The main prosecutor on Moya’s case, Matthew Bassiur, even claimed in court that she would bring minors into her brothels in order to take their virginity—and get them into prostitution, according to the New York Post. That charge was dropped in Moya’s plea deal.
“I miss my brothels,” Moya had lamented just after she was sprung in 2007. “I miss my girls. I miss my life.”
She didn’t miss it for long, if the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office is to be believed.
Moya—who describes herself on a Twitter account, last updated in 2012, as a "Former NYC madam living in NYC doing things differently, trying to shed the rep that media portrayed"—was collared on June 28 on a new charge of promoting prostitution in the third degree, for her alleged involvement running girls again through most of her decade of freedom.
“The defendants, in the County of New York and elsewhere, during the period from on or about May 1, 2008 to on or about June 27, 2018, knowingly advanced and profited from prostitution by managing, supervising, controlling, and owning, alone and in association with others, a house of prostitution and a prostitution business and enterprise involving prostitution activity by two or more persons in prostitution,” read the Manhattan Supreme Court indictment against Moya and six others.
The indictment also charged Moya and her co-defendants with conspiracy in the fifth degree, claiming they “agreed with each other and others to engage in and cause the performance of such conduct.”
The indictment includes a trail of digital evidence, including emails alleged to have been swapped over this 10-year period.
“Pimpin aint easy but it sure is fun,” read the subject line of one email Moya allegedly sent on May 16, 2008.
“This is Julie Moya… I am back in the biz but very low key, call me anytime,” Moya wrote in that email, according to the indictment.
(Not mentioned in the indictment: that June, Moya told the Daily News that she had helped police collar a phony cop who was robbing and assaulting prostitutes—claiming he’d tried scamming girls at her cathouse. Cops said at the time that another prostitute first led them to the violent scammer.)
In December of the following year, Moya allegedly sent another email asking to post an ad on an adult website, www.bestgfe.com, writing “I am an agency offering the same services to others… ”
In the email , Moya allegedly noted that the admins were concerned that “I may draw LE (law enforcement) to your site… ”
As time went on, Moya’s involvement in the sex industry deepened, court papers charge. Her email address was used to register the domain www.jewels-nyc.com in March 2012. A phone number belonging to another one of Moya’s co-defendants, Daniel Colon, was used to register this website, charging documents state.
Colon placed an ad on Backpage.com in February 2013 that read “Agency of your DREAMS hiring now.”
“I’m urgently seeking classy, cute girl-next-door or model-type females to join me in opening an all-new escort agency that caters to YOU,” stated the ad.
That June, Colon opened a ConEd account for 645 Broadway—the location of one their brick-and-mortar brothels.
While Moya was locked up at Rikers this time, her brothel dancing partner and friend of two decades, 68-year-old William Mersey—a former cabbie better known in the city’s sex industry as the eponymous proprietor of Dollar Bill’s Psycho Roundup (“All the nudes fit to print!”), and an avid blogger and occasional writer for the Daily News and the Village Voice—spent a week behind bars in the same case.
Mersey used to to handle escorts’ advertising, selling their ads in bulk to adult publications and alt-weeklies—until the feds closed in and went after him, not for the sex ads he middle-manned but for evading $3.5 million in taxes from the cash he collected for those ads.
While Mersey awaits sentencing on the tax rap, which he pleaded guilty to, he found himself named as a defendant in Moya’s latest case.
His alleged involvement in her brothel business appears to stem from a single email he sent to Moya on August 10, 2015: “The following are Jewels’ page view from march through July….Assuming your revenue mirrors page view loss, you lost 14% when you lost me….At $100 per guy and 14% loss, you lost $1400 per day x 26 day month = 36,000 per month….Ya know….you could come back on [my] site...hire me to take pix, build pages, and clean up that fucking mess of a Jewels blog.”
Mersey also bought a domain, www.gentlemanschoice-ny.com, in June 2017, which prosecutors claim was tied to Moya’s businesses.
For that, Mersey was taken into custody on July 5 and spent a week in The Tombs, a city-run jail in Downtown Manhattan, while waiting for his $50,000 surety bond to go through.
“The state felt that I was part of a conspiracy to promote prostitution,” Mersey said of the new charges he’s facing, which he denies. “In actuality, I’ve been friends with this woman ever since I sold her an ad in 1997.”
“Imagine if you had a boyfriend who you were mailing back and forth with—‘you know you’re a son-of-a-bitch, you cheated on me,’ and the feds are reading this?” Mersey continued. “Not a comfortable feeling.
“It seems counterproductive to incarcerate a 68-year-old white man, who volunteers daily at soup kitchens and churches when he didn’t hurt anybody—and he’s paid his tax bill,” Mersey said. ““I did not promote prostitution, unequivocally.”
Moya remains on Rikers Island, evidently unable to post her $75,000 bail or even land a $100,000 bond.
Despite her drab surroundings, Moya beamed when a reporter mentioned Mersey’s name.
“He’s innocent,” she said through a telephone handset, while seated behind a glass barrier.
Her tone and appearance lacked the braggadocio of the madam who in 2005 told reporters her brothels were “the friendliest, the nicest, the best" in New York City”—and who reportedly sported stiletto boots when surrendering to cops in that bust.
Moya told The Daily Beast that she and Mersey were close friends and that the two had indeed been to the loft on Bleecker at Broadway—one of the locations alleged to be a brothel in this indictment.
But they just hung out there, she said, listening to music, sometimes dancing. There wasn’t any illegal activity taking place when she and Mersey were there, Moya maintains.
Moya reiterated her supposed innocence, and said her relationship with the sex industry these days was, at most, giving “pointers” to participants.
She hopes to get out while her case is pending so she can take of her 12-year-old grandson at her home in Whitestone, Queens. (The boy, whose father is Moya’s son and co-defendant, Jerry Morgan, is now being cared for by her other son, who lives out of state.)
Despite her past reputation—the New York Post estimated she kept about 50 percent of her prostitutes’ fees, some $15 million over a decade—“I’m not the ‘big madam,’” Moya said.