Rankin officer taken off the streets

Court documents claim he was involved in a prostitution ring with his wife

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A part-time Rankin police officer was taken off the streets this week after the police chief learned that he is mentioned in court documents as being involved in a prostitution ring with his wife.

The references to Officer Matthew Brown of West View first surfaced in January when his wife, Jennifer Brown, was charged with promoting prostitution and other crimes after Moon police said she served as a scheduler for a prostitution service.

Officer Brown, 38, has not been charged in connection with the case and a defense attorney said the officer denies the allegations in a criminal complaint filed against Ms. Brown.

Rankin police Chief Ryan Wooten said he did not learn of the prostitution investigation until he was contacted by a reporter this week.

"It's really got me upset. I had no idea any of that existed," Chief Wooten said. "I've been trying to think of a better way of screening my guys. I have no answer for that."

Chief Wooten said he has taken Officer Brown off the streets since learning of the Moon case and he plans to consult with borough council members about how to proceed.

Officer Brown and his wife did not respond to a request for comment.

Defense attorney David J. Shrager, who represents Ms. Brown and has been authorized to speak for Officer Brown, said, "They're denying these charges. Certainly, I have not seen any evidence that would allow me to believe that there is enough for him to be charged."

Officer Brown is a former Allegheny County police officer. He joined the Allegheny County police force in December 2002 and had earned a salary of about $78,000, according to county spokeswoman Amie Downs.

Last year, according to sources familiar with the situation, he failed a drug test and the county police attempted to fire him. He appealed and an arbitrator sided with the county in April. He left the department May 14, Ms. Downs said.

County police Superintendent Charles Moffatt did not respond to a request for comment. Ms. Downs said the county would not comment on his dismissal, citing "personnel matters."

Officer Brown applied last year for a job as a part-time police officer in Rankin and joined the department in November, Chief Wooten said.

The chief said he did not remember how many people applied for the job and that all candidates had to pass criminal checks.

Asked about the failed drug test, Chief Wooten said, "I never was aware of that." He said he "did not reach out to county police" but instead relied upon references supplied by Officer Brown.

A few months after Officer Brown was hired in Rankin, his wife was charged by Moon police with promoting prostitution, conspiracy and possessing instruments of crime.

Moon Detective Charles Carr wrote in a criminal complaint that officers from Moon, Pittsburgh and the FBI's human trafficking task force in 2012 began investigating postings to an classified ad website called Backpage.com. Among them were postings by an adult entertainment agency called 69 Entertainment.

Detective Carr wrote in the criminal complaint that undercover officers contacted the company and set up an appointment with a woman who agreed to have sex for money.

Detective Carr wrote that some of the online postings were traced to two locations -- one of which is the West View address of Officer Brown and his wife.

The detective wrote that an employee of 69 Entertainment told police Ms. Brown "ran the daily operations as one of the schedulers of the agency" and that her husband was a driver.

"Often drivers and female employees would meet at Jen and Matt Brown's house. ... The purpose of this would be waiting for appointments," Detective Carr wrote. He wrote that Ms. Brown used a computer at her home to "conduct the agency's business."

Three people told police it "was common knowledge that Matt Brown was a police officer," Detective Carr wrote.

Mr. Shrager said he did not wish to discuss point-by-point the allegations against Ms. Brown and Officer Brown.

He said of Ms. Brown, "She has no previous criminal history, and these charges are very shocking and have devastated her. She is very anxious to clear her good name and we intend to defend the case. It's our position that there is no evidence of her committing these crimes."

Moon police Chief Leo McCarthy said Detective Carr consulted with Allegheny County assistant district attorney Jon Pittman on whether to file charges against Officer Brown.

"[Detective Carr] was told we didn't have probable cause for a crime in Moon," the chief said.

Chief Wooten said Officer Brown did not tell him of Ms. Brown's arrest.

"I don't know how anybody possibly knew about that," Chief Wooten said.

Liz Navratil: lnavratil@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1438 or on Twitter @LizNavratil. Molly Born: mborn@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1944 or on Twitter @molly_born.

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