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Zumba prostitution case heads to trial after plea deal fails

Rich Beauchesne / Reuters file

Alexis Wright 29, of Wells, Maine, is accused of running a prostitution business in Kennebunk.

A closed-door plea deal failed Friday for a Maine man accused of working alongside a dance teacher in running a prostitution business from a Zumba studio.

A judge ruled Friday that Mark Strong Sr., 57, will face trial on Tuesday on charges related to the prostitution operation he is accused of running with dance teacher Alexis Wright in her Kennebunk, Maine, Zumba studio, Seacoastonline.com reported.

Strong faces 59 counts of promotion of prostitution and invasion of privacy, while Wright faces 106 counts that also include tax-related charges, according to Seacoastonline.com. The two have pleaded not guilty.

Earlier Friday, Strong's lawyers had met with prosecutors and a judge about a possible plea deal. Now that the deal failed, jury selection for the trial begins Tuesday in York County Superior Court in Alfred, Maine.

The judge also ordered Strong's lawyer, Daniel Lilley, to stay on the case. Lilley asked to withdraw based on claims that his client can't afford to pay for a legal defense or to hire expert witnesses, The Associated Press reported.

At least a third of the 200 people that authorities say paid to have sex with Wright have been identified publicly. The release of the names caused an uproar in and around Kennebunk, a city of 10,000 about 85 miles north of Boston.

Wright is accused of using cameras, laptops and external hard drives to secretly record the encounters. A lawyer for Wright and a lawyer for Strong separately told NBC News earlier this month that there is no evidence to support claims of extortion.

An official told Seacoastonline.com last month that Wright's case was on a trial list for May.

NBC News correspondent Katy Tur contributed to this report.

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