Feature | Grudge Match: Alleged pimp Steve Maese and D.A. Lohra Miller go all out to flatten each other | Cover Story | Salt Lake City | Salt Lake City Weekly
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Feature | Grudge Match: Alleged pimp Steve Maese and D.A. Lohra Miller go all out to flatten each other

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Tit for Tat
In many ways, the combatants in the Doll House saga are still fighting the 2006 district attorney’s election. Morgan, the fired deputy district attorney, was Miller’s chief rival for the GOP nomination in a nasty Republican convention fight. Maese, the accused pimp, was Morgan’s Karl Rove, running publicity for the election bid that Morgan lost to Miller. Then, as now, each side accuses the other of hypocrisy.

When Morgan was fired from the district attorney’s office in March, he was admonished for hiding his campaign relationship with Maese, a criminal defendant. Morgan’s letter of termination from Miller notes Maese’s campaign work was not reported on campaign-finance disclosure forms. That was “a potential criminal law violation,” the district attorney’s office alleges.

But court records suggest Miller did the same thing. Some campaign advertising services for Miller’s successful district attorney run were never reported on Miller’s campaign-finance disclosure forms. The services were donated by the owner of a production company who at the time was charged with four counts of forcible sexual abuse, according to a current court appeal. The man argues his donations to Miller should disqualify her from prosecuting his case.

“What ticks me off is the hypocrisy of all this,” Morgan says.

Miller fired Morgan allegedly for leaking confidential prosecution information to his friend, Maese. Morgan, in turn, accuses the district attorney’s office of illegally leaking his confidential letter of termination to the press—and names Miller herself as one of the prime suspects in the leaking.

The ultimate irony of the Doll House case is that it began with an accusation the escort agency was operating without a business license. What gets Maese is that when he sent a private investigator to spy on the district attorney, the investigator returned with evidence that Miller had, herself, operated a home law office without a business license. Miller gets a pass while Maese gets charged.

The accused pimp strikes a tone of moral outrage: “That’s what frustrates me so much,” Maese says. “There is no downside for her screwing me like this.”

The customer always comes first
The Doll House—D. House, LLC—began life in 2004 when a recently divorced Maese began dating former escort Tiffany Curtis, who then worked as an escort agency “phone girl” booking appointments. When the agency Curtis worked for came up for sale, the couple looked at purchasing it. That was before a quick market analysis by Maese determined they could start their own agency for half the price. (The Doll House has since been sold and is being operated by others who are not facing charges in this case.)

Maese is hard to figure. He is either that charming guy who showed up at Democratic events and charity fund-raisers with fiancé Kelly Ann Booth, or he is the “preppy ghetto” wannabe gangster whom one former Doll House employee says played ostentatiously with his handgun inside the office. He either doled out fatherly advice to employees about putting money away for a rainy day or yelled at them like a street pimp. In person, Maese is a goofball—constantly cracking himself up with a laugh that reveals a mischievous Cheshire Cat smile. It is doubtful anyone would take him seriously saying, “Give me my money, bitch.” Maese mostly comes off like the smooth, rapid-talking salesman he was while working as a business banking trainer at Wells Fargo years ago.

On the witness stand in 3rd District Court at a preliminary hearing for Maese and Curtis in April 2007, a former employee was asked about the terms of her Doll House employment.

Well, she said, there were wonderful incentives: “Like, if you worked really hard, you could get, like, your nails done, or go tanning. I mean, like, they had a great, like, situation going on.”

Maese tried to operate his escort agency “like a real business.” In his mind, to this day, Maese was running a legal company for which he’d been granted a license. “I knew what the law was, and I followed it to the letter,” he says.

The Doll House held seminars. It had a blog, a mission statement, and a credo which read in part: “Our first responsibility is to our customers. No matter what their age, race, or disposition, we will strive to fulfill their fantasies within their economic means.”

To stand out from other agencies, the Doll House offered a money-back guarantee that its escorts would get naked. Even after the 2006 raid, Maese was still in marketing mode. His first act was to ask a court to put the Doll House customer list under court seal. “Our strike back is going to be, ‘Hey customers, we’re looking out for you first,’” he recalls.

Looking back, Maese’s insistence that he was a legit businessman may have been his undoing. He could well be facing time behind bars and loss of everything he owns—all because he decided to fight a $550 business licensing ticket.