SANTA ANA - A mother of two, accused of running California's most exclusive escort service, plans to plead guilty in federal court to money laundering and transporting someone across state lines for prostitution, her lawyer says.
The investigation into Michelle Braun's business -- Nici's Girls -- took years, but prosecutors just laid out the allegations earlier this year.
Fort Lauderdale attorney Marc Nurik said.
The deal calls for her to serve five years of probation -- including six months on house arrest -- and pay a $30,000 fine.
The government has already seized about $300,000 from her. She's also required to cooperate with the Internal Revenue Service and the FBI.
Braun and Nici's Girls have been written about in Rolling Stone and Details magazines, the latter calling the girls "the most beautiful (and expensive) pros in the business" who made tens of thousands for their services.
Though magazines have called her the replacement for famed Hollywood madam Heidi Fleiss, Braun's attorney says that's unfair.
"This was a totally different situation," Nurik said. "Nici's Girls were celebrities in their own right ... These were all either playmates or porn stars who were well known and popular and men with means wanted to meet them."
Braun appeared in federal court in Orange County, Calif., Monday.
According to Nurik, Braun's client list -- which the government now has after seizing her iPhone, Macbook computer and another cell phone -- includes heavy hitters.
"Let's just say you'd be shocked," he said. "They ranged from captains of industry, Hollywood types, sports figures and even people more influential."
Braun, who shut down operations of Nici's Girls years ago, has been linked to addresses on Palmetto Park Road in Boca Raton and an East Atlantic Avenue shopping plaza in Delray Beach. It's unclear if she ran Nici's Girls from South Florida or California, though her attorney said all she needed to operate was a phone and a computer.
Sex was not a prerequisite for Nici's Girls, according to Nurik.
Prosecutors contend that "in some instances there may have been discussions about anticipated sexual acts," according to Nurik, who said sex likely occurred. "I'm not sure people would pay money to meet a porn star and talk about Stephen Hawking's newest book."
Braun, originally from Bakersfield, Calif., shares custody of her two children, ages 8 and 6, with David Fioravanti, 42, whom she divorced in Broward County in 2006, records show.
She has been arrested three times in Palm Beach County, most recently in 2007 on charges of cocaine and narcotics equipment possession, according to Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office records. The state dropped the charges last month, court records show. She was arrested in 2004 on an animal cruelty charge, accused of leaving a puppy in a car at the Town Center mall in Boca Raton. The dog was in distress but survived. She was charged in 2005 with failing to appear in court. The outcome of the latter two cases was unclear.
Nurik said his client is more than the one-dimensional character she's being portrayed as and that she resents the Heidi Fleiss comparisons.
"She's devoted to her kids and wants to move on with her life," he said.