Speedbowl owner puts up $25M to cover potential civil damages

Bruce Bemer pictured on the day he bought the New London-Waterford Speedbowl at auction in Waterford on Oct. 18, 2014. (Tim Cook/The Day)
Bruce Bemer pictured on the day he bought the New London-Waterford Speedbowl at auction in Waterford on Oct. 18, 2014. (Tim Cook/The Day)

Glastonbury — New London-Waterford Speedbowl owner Bruce Bemer, who is facing charges for alleged involvement in a decades-long sex trafficking ring, agreed this week to set aside $25 million in assets to cover potential damages from pending civil cases filed by almost a dozen plaintiffs.

The Glastonbury businessman, 63, who owns a host of Connecticut businesses, agreed to put up the money after a conference Tuesday with plaintiffs' attorneys and Bridgeport Superior Court Judge Barbara Bellis, attorneys said.

The move also came a day before several plaintiffs were set to testify against Bemer in a hearing over plaintiffs' motion to freeze his assets. Along with William Trefzger, 72, of Westport, and Robert King, 50, of Danbury, Bemer faces charges in connection to an alleged prostitution ring involving drug addicted and mentally disabled young men who were lured with promises of friendship, money and drugs.

"I was looking forward to questioning Mr. Bemer," Kevin Ferry, an attorney representing three plaintiffs alleging sexual abuse by Bemer, said in an interview. "Mr. Bemer's sexually deviant behavior spanned decades, and the number of young men's lives he's destroyed is staggering."

The number of plaintiffs in four consolidated civil cases filed since the spring has risen to almost 12, according to Ferry and other plaintiffs' attorneys interviewed Wednesday.

"When people who've been victimized as young boys or young girls have the courage to come forward and get the help and counseling they need, it's like an incredible weight that's been lifted," Ferry added. "But it takes a whole lot of courage."

Bemer's attorney, Ryan Barry, could not be reached for comment.

In the criminal case, Bemer and Trefzger have pleaded not guilty to charges of patronizing a trafficked person. King faces a trafficking charge and remains in custody on $750,000 bail. He is due in court Jan. 17.

Trefzger remains in custody with bail set at $250,000. His next court appearance is scheduled for Dec. 21.

Bemer also faces a criminal charge of conspiracy to commit trafficking. He was released after posting $500,000 bail in March and is due back in court Jan. 17.

Plaintiffs' attorneys in the civil cases laid out harrowing allegations that showed a pattern of Bemer, King and Trefzger targeting young men and minors suffering from substance abuse or mental disabilities. The attorneys said they believed there are similar allegations stretching back approximately 30 years, and they expect more people to come forward with claims in the coming months.

In interviews with police, victims said the sexual encounters allegedly took place all over Connecticut, including Bemer's businesses in Hartford and Glastonbury. In addition to the New London-Waterford Speedbowl, Bemer owns Skylark Airpark in East Windsor, Bemer Petroleum in Glastonbury, motorcycle dealerships and other businesses.

Joel Faxon, who represents eight clients allegedly abused by Bemer, said as part of Tuesday's agreement Bemer must disclose to attorneys "his entire financial portfolio" by the end of the month. Attorneys can then select the number of assets "we want to encumber or lien," Faxon said, describing the money as akin to a $25 million insurance policy for plaintiffs.

"Bemer knew there was nothing to gain from contesting" the motion to set aside some of his assets, Faxon added. He noted if more plaintiffs come forward in the coming months, their attorneys can seek to add to the total amount of assets secured for potential damages.

While jury selection and a civil trial is officially set for March of 2019, Faxon said he'd be "absolutely shocked" if the cases went that far.

"It would probably be the riskiest trial in the history of the state of Connecticut for him to defend himself in front of a jury," Faxon said, noting that some of his clients, which include minors as young as 13 years old, kept evidence of the alleged abuse that the attorney described as "ironclad proof."

Gerald Sack, representing the conservator and estate of a homeless person accusing Bemer of abuse beginning in 2015, said it was too early to tell if the case would head to trial.

"Mr. Bemer would be well served to consider (settling) but that's up to him and his lawyers," Sack said.

The semiprofessional Speedbowl, where many senior staff announced their resignation following Bemer's March arrest, opened its 2017 season in June after veteran driver and team owner George Whitney of Westbrook stepped in and offered to lease the track from Bemer.

In late November, the Speedbowl posted on its Facebook account that it was set to begin its 2018 Blast-Off Weekend May 5 and 6.


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