By Chuck Strouse
By Scott Fishman
By Terrence McCoy
By Ryan Yousefi
By Ciara LaVelle, Kat Bein, Carolina Del Busto, and Liz Tracy
By Pepe Billete
By Ryan Yousefi
By Kyle Swenson
The girls, as Sonya calls them, are not hard to find. When the business was operating at full tilt, she was always looking for new girls, recruiting most of them from an "always hiring" line she would sometimes append to her classified ads in the Herald and New Times.
A girl can remain with one escort service for only so long, though. Five visits is about the most a man will spend with a particular girl. Inevitably, according to Sonya, they grow restless and want to try someone new. Many girls know this and after a few months move on to another operation. Some come down from Broward for a weekend looking for a different market. Some have relocated from New York. Some are just making quick cash, then getting out of the business. Sonya says she refuses to hire drug addicts or anyone under the age of 21.
"I have good girls, like normal-type girls you would never expect to find in this business," she relates. "You might expect crackheads, trashy girls who are worn out. A lot of agencies have women like that, but I don't. I get girls who are as normal as they can possibly be in this business. They live in society, they have other jobs, mortgage payments, and cars. Several of them are living double lives as nurses and teachers. At one time I had four attorneys working for me."
In fact one of her former escorts, she says, used to work at New Times. When pressed for proof, Sonya provides the woman's cell-phone number. Reached on her cell phone, the woman (who shall remain nameless) denied knowing anyone named Sonya. When told that Sonya runs an escort service and that she had provided the cell phone number, the woman balked. "I don't want to say anything because that's none of your business," she replied.
Four minutes later Sonya calls. "I just got off the phone with [the woman]. She is maaaaad!" she says, cackling. "She wanted to know why I gave out her phone number. I told her I didn't. She wanted to know if I was having an article written about me. I said no, of course. I said I'd never spoken to you in my life.
"She's upset because she's living two lives. The thought that one life could be exposed scares her to death. As you would expect."
As should be apparent, Sonya lies with ease. When she books girls, for instance. "I have a girl named Holly," she says. "She's 28 but I book her for 21 and say she's a UM student. I'll also say she's from Seattle, because that sounds more intriguing. I concoct a whole little story about her, though none of it's true. I'll say she's 34C-24-34 and that she has a hard body because she works out every day. I have to make the sale. I'm just a normal person in business like anyone else."
Sonya, naturally, isn't her real name. It's not even the pseudonym she normally uses. A search of Florida corporations registered in both her birth and fake names turns up nothing. Even the names of her companies, the ones listed in the classified ads, are unregistered. "You won't find a thing in my name," she boasts. "Nothing. Nothing at all. I've hidden everything in shell corporations, which I use for the real estate I buy. The rest of my money I've deposited in offshore accounts." These practices have another benefit, one as illegal as prostitution: She claims to pay virtually no taxes. "They won't get anything from me. Nothing," she says proudly. "It's all completely protected."
What can be verified about her background is slight. Sonya was born in Miami and raised in an upper-middle-class, two-parent family. Her father is a retired medical professional. She has one brother. "My parents are totally cool with what I do," she says. "They know all about it." Maybe so, but she insisted that New Times not interview her parents, who still live in Miami-Dade County. She said her brother would be willing to talk, but only if she arranged the interview, which she never did despite repeated requests.
Sonya allows that she's been married twice, but Miami-Dade County marriage records reveal that she's actually been hitched four times. Her first marriage came at age sixteen to a boy not yet old enough to drink. They divorced within two months. The second marriage, at age nineteen, lasted less than a year. "I was young," she later admits, "and I thought I was in love. I was stupid."
Marriage number three, to a professional athlete, produced a daughter. When his career took off, they all moved out of Florida and up in economic status. That marriage lasted nearly seven years. "He hit me," is all she'll offer as an explanation for the divorce.
In 1992 she met a rich foreign gentleman. "A friend introduced him to me," she recalls. "He was married at the time but he fell crazy in love with me. I didn't like him at all at first, and I should have went on my gut instinct. He sent me something like four dozen roses and was calling me. Finally we went out to South Beach and dinner at Mezzanotte. He was Prince Charming on a white horse. I'll never forget it."