FBI Wastes Resources Going After The Canal Street Brothel

Even a Congressman wondered after 9/11
 why the FBI was after brothels not terrorists

Highlights of CBS 48 Hours Report June 16, 2004

A lot of this wasn't about sex. A lot of it is fun," says Jeanette Maier, former madam of the infamous Canal Street Brothel. "I ran a clean, tight business. If it can be said to be proud about what you're doing, I made sure it was run right," says Tommie Taylor, who ran the brothel. "My mother was like the house mother, making sure everybody had what they needed," adds Jeanette, who's also Tommie's daughter.

Clients were charged $300 an hour for services. "If it hadn't a been for the FBI, we'd probably still be chugging right along, making half of the businessmen in New Orleans very happy," says Tommie. Customers included, judges, doctors, politicians, lawyers, restaurateurs and sports figures.

"We're not hurting anybody. I don't see why this is such a big deal," says Jeanette. "We weren't going out and grabbing 14-year-old girls off of the street, making them hookers. These were professional women who booked in with us."

What they didn't know was that the phones were bugged, and the FBI had recorded 5,000 calls and filed charges against the owners in 2003. For four months, 10 FBI agents took turns listening in the days before, during and after September 11, 2001.

“They tapped my phone. I'm calling people in New York, crying,” says Monica. “I called everybody. Oh my God. We're being attacked! And they're taping phone conversations about a brothel?”

Lawmakers wondered the same thing. The investigation was even ridiculed at a hearing on terrorism. “I realize it comes as an enormous revelation to the American public that there might have been prostitutes in New Orleans. I mean, who knew,” said Sen. Patrick Leahy.

The bust quickly became the butt of jokes. After all, prostitution was once legal in this legendary district called Storyville (as is private prostitution in most of the world except the U.S.)

The FBI thought there were after drugs and Mafia connections. But the FBI failed to produce evidence of hard drugs or mob bosses, and 5,000 calls later, the investigators came up empty.

“I will tell you there was a very broad client base involving individuals from all over the City of New Orleans and its environs,” says U.S. attorney Jim Letten. (Seems he has a big problem with so many people enjoying healthy pleasurable sexuality - I assume he would prefer a city more full of sexually frustrated men who would be more included to sexually harass women or use less desirable outlets than willing professional sexworkers in a brothel - Dave)

Federal prosecutors threw the book at the women, charging them with prostitution conspiracy. They face up to five years in prison. But their clients were not charged. Prosecutors let the men off the hook. (And never identified them publicly).

But after being convicted of prostitution related charges - The judge said the whole case could be described as "dysfunctional” and he suggested the FBI had better things to do with its time. Bottom line – A $10,000 fine, probation, but no jail time for Tommie or Jeanette.

There is more to the story, including issues within the family, and interesting stories of clients. But the bottom line was all the resources spent on busting the brothel resulting in the closing of a well run brothel and financial ruin with legal costs etc for the women running it. The customers - never exposed and can simply enjoy one of the many other "brothels" or zillions of professional sexworkers making men happy with healthy sexual tension release in New Orleans just as in every other city in the world.

Compete transcript and pictures at

Back to the Sexwork Main Menu