Crime

Brenda Stewart, Denver Players/Sugar owner & ex-escort, indicted for tax evasion, racketeering

This week, Brenda Stewart was indicted on charges related to tax evasion, racketeering, money laundering and more in relation to Denver Players/Sugar, a notorious escort business.

A former escort known to her staff as "Katrina Carter" or simply "Carter," Stewart potentially faces decades in jail and six-figure fines. It's a steamy story Westword's been following for years.

As reported by Jared Jacang Maher, Denver Players/Sugar became the hottest provider of super-hot companions in 2004 after the industry's previous leader, Colorado Companions, went down due to the growing meth addiction of Gary Haney, its owner. At that time, the operation was owned by onetime professional skier Scottie Ewing, whose so-called Sugar House catered to area swingers.

Stewart purchased Denver Players/Sugar in 2005 under the company name Phoenix Media and Consulting, LLC, and the enterprise quickly grew thanks to the largesse of high-profile, big money clients with powerful urges. As Maher wrote in the 2008 post "IRS Making Local Escorts Hot and Bothered:"

At any given time, twenty or more women were employed by Denver Players/Sugar as escorts in cities throughout the Front Range, and in Aspen and Vail. The now defunct website www.denversugar.com featured online profiles for women like "Juvel," described as a "sensual Latina with a sexy accent... slender with silky sweet skin and gorgeous long legs." The going rate for one hour of "all-inclusive companionship" was $300 or more. The company had a reputation as one of the most professional and fair-minded toward escorts in the industry, often advertising its status as "female owned and operated" in recruitment ads published in various publications, including Westword.

But attracting the top escorts meant that Denver Players/Sugar attracted the top patrons, which could make this IRS investigation about much more than back taxes.

Indeed, Denver Players/Sugar was raided in 2008 by representatives of the Denver Police Department and the Internal Revenue Service -- and rather than arresting anyone, officers and agents seized computers and files. Moreover, Maher wrote, "several subcontractors who worked for Denver Players/Sugar in capacities ranging from web design, photography, and even tanning salons have been served with warrants demanding they turn over records of past financial dealings with the company. Sources who were questioned by the IRS say the investigation was explained to them as a federal tax-evasion case going before a grand jury. The Denver branch of the U.S. Attorney's office has confirmed to 9News that they were working with the IRS on the 'ongoing criminal investigation.'" Two years later, that inquiry has borne fruit. The Brenda Stewart indictment alleges that she evaded taxes on her "prostitution business" beginning in 2005 through 2007, didn't provide tax forms for her employees, and personally didn't bother to file a return in 2006. She's also accused of racketeering, for attempting to "distribute the proceeds of her unlawful activity" using wire communication facilities; witness tampering, for ordering that the firm's websites be deleted after search warrants were served; and money laundering.

Stewart faces potential five-year sentences for each count of tax evasion and racketeering -- and there are 28 of the latter. She could also receive a twenty-year jolt for witness tampering and money laundering, with fines of $250,000 and $500,000, respectively, per count. Number of money laundering charges: 39.

Page down to read the entire indictment, as well as to get more details in a release from the U.S. Attorney's Office:

KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts

Latest Stories