Deborah Jeane Palfrey Biography

Deborah Jeane Palfrey was the leader of a large Washington-based prostitution ring and became known as the D.C. Madam.


After 18 months in jail on related charges, Deborah Jeane Palfrey launched Pamela Martin and Associates, an escort service, and for 13 years conducted most of her business by e-mail and phone. In 2004, the IRS and the U.S. Postal Service launched an investigation of the company. In April 2008, she was found guilty of money laundering, racketeering and mail fraud and hanged herself a month later.

Criminal Life

Infamous figure Deborah Jeane Palfrey, nicknamed the "DC Madam" by the media, was born on March 18, 1956, in Charleroi, Pennsylvania. Palfrey was the former owner of Pamela Martin and Associates, which the U. S. government alleged was a prostitution service in Washington, D.C. Palfrey claimed the services she offered were legitimate and legal. On April 15, 2008, she was found guilty of money laundering, racketeering and mail fraud.

Early Life and Education

Palfrey's father was a grocer, her mother a homemaker. The family moved to Orlando, but returned to Charleroi when Palfrey was 10. She's remembered as a bright, attractive girl. But Palfrey abruptly left Charleroi to finish high school in Florida, saying she couldn't take the bullying anymore. Palfrey graduated from Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida, with a bachelor's degree in criminal justice. She also attended what is now Thomas Jefferson School of Law in San Diego, completing a nine-month paralegal course.

Pamela Martin and Associates

Working as a paralegal in San Diego and later as a cocktail waitress, she became involved in the escort business. "Appalled and disgusted" by how most services were run, including widespread drug abuse, she started her own company. Palfrey was arrested in 1990, but failed to show up at her scheduled trial. After she was captured in Montana, she said the stress had caused her to flee. She spent 18 months in state prison.

After jail, Palfrey launched Pamela Martin and Associates. For 13 years, she conducted most of her business by e-mail and phone, allegedly instructed her "subcontractors" to convert her share of fees into money orders and mail them to her post office box in California.

Conviction and Suicide

In 2004, the Internal Revenue Service and the U.S. Postal Service launched a joint investigation of Pamela Martin and Associates. Palfrey argued her "subcontractors"; breached their contracts by engaging in illegal sex. Nevertheless, she was convicted and faced prison at the time of her death.

Palfrey committed suicide on May 1, 2008, in Tarpon Springs, Florida, according to the Pinellas medical examiner's official ruling. She was discovered hanging by a nylon rope from a metal beam on the ceiling of a small storage shed on her mother's property, police said.

Palfrey's death sparked widespread Internet rumors that someone killed her to keep her from identifying more prominent clients of the escort service. At least one lawmaker, Louisiana Senator David Vitter, a Republican, turned up in the phone records of her business, Pamela Martin & Associates. State Department official Randall Tobias resigned in May 2007 after confirming he patronized Palfrey's business.

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