If you drove down Oak Avenue and had to guess which house was hiding an alleged brothel, you’d probably point your finger right at Michael Clarke’s place, just a few hundred yards from Church Road.
A narrow two-story sheltered in front by a massive tree, the home Cherry Hill Police say Clarke used for months as a home base for prostitution is unmistakably out-of-place in the neighborhood.
Its mismatched siding—two sides easily spotted from the road are tan, while the others are a malignant gray—a muddy track grooved to a broken-down backyard fence, half raw wood and half painted red, and a stained driveway scream in contrast to the homes surrounding it, with their neat facades and landscaped yards.
A knock at the door—flanked by a faded, chipped plastic Oliver Hardy figure and a green cat statue—goes unanswered, and the home almost looks abandoned, lights all off in the early evening.
Neighbors, though reluctant to talk about the alleged house of prostitution down the street, say Clarke, who’s out on bail, is still around, still driving the blue pickup he allegedly used to shuttle prostitutes around the area—though, “the girls are all gone.”
One woman, who didn’t want to be identified, looks over at the home and laughs when asked if there was ever any question what was happening on the block.
“Everybody’s aware of what was going on,” she says.
What was going on was a prostitution network, according to police, who spent months investigating complaints from neighbors about Clarke’s activities.
He used several websites to advertise women, police say, using his home as a base—sometimes even bringing women back to Oak Avenue for sexual encounters with johns under his own roof.
Other times, he would drive women to motels in the area after coordinating with men who contacted him, police say.
Clarke was finally arrested last month and charged with promoting prostitution, three months after police began the investigation. Following his arrest, they seized computers, cameras and cells phones, as well as other evidence related to the alleged brothel, during a search of his home on a warrant.
Clarke was initially taken to the Camden County Jail, but is since out on $15,000 bail.
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