Tuesday, March 29, 2016

United pilot charged with running prostitution ring appears in court

Bruce Wayne Wallis, a 51-year-old United Airlines pilot, appears in Houston court Monday, March 28, 2016 on charges of aggravated promotion of prostitution and engaged in criminal activity.

Eastex Aero, a flight school, is shown Thursday, March 24, 2016, in Porter. A United Airlines pilot has been accused of running several brothels out of Houston office buildings and an apartment complex. He paid the women as employees of his flight school in Porter.

A United Airlines pilot appeared in court Monday on charges of running a string of brothels across the Houston area.

Bruce Wayne Wallis, 51, who was arrested last week on charges with aggravated promotion of prostitution and engaging in criminal activity in what officials said included about a half-dozen brothels in Galleria-area apartments and northwest Houston office buildings with six to 10 women working at each site.

Tracie Tanner, a 37-year-old Rosenberg woman accused of being Wallis' top lieutenant, also appeared in state District Judge Jim Wallace's court.

Both face a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison if convicted.

In a brief statement outside of the Harris County courthouse, Dan Cogdell, a lawyer for Wallis, scoffed at the allegations.

"This the latest prosecution of the worlds' oldest profession, but it's hardly the crime of the century," he said.

Lawyers for Tanner raised the spectre that she had been forced to work with Wallis, but stopped short of calling her a victim in the case.

"She's in a very scary place right now," said defense attorney Mark Metzgar. "We're still investigating."

Wallis, who arrived in court with a handful of lawyers, did not speak as he strode in and out of the courthouse in front of a dozen TV cameras and reporters. United Airlines said Wallis is no longer flying while the charges are pending.

Tanner, who seemed disoriented, sat in a different part of the courtroom and told strangers who asked about the media that she was very upset.

"Since being arrested, I went through the worst 48 hours of my life," she said.

Story and photo gallery: http://www.chron.com

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