Family Affair: The Story of the Canal Street Brothel
A Snitch Is Born
Like many criminal cases, the Canal Street Brothel investigation started out with an informant's tip. FBI documents refer to the snitch as CS-2, government lingo for a confidential source, but to everyone else he is Dr. Howard Lippton. Pot-bellied and middle-aged, Lippton has a chubby face, drooping jowls, and an arch of dark hair crowning his high forehead.
Jeanette says that during the 1990s Lippton spent lots of money on cocaine and prostitutes but rarely had sex with any of the girls. "He was too paranoid to have sex," she says. "He would make the girls look out the window of his apartment the whole time they were there because he thought someone was out to get him."
There were people out to get him.
One night Lippton called Tommie from a payphone. "He was crying," she says. "Somebody had beat him up." Tommie went out and found him huddled on a street corner, his face a bloody mess.
Tommie speculates that Lippton caught the beating from a drug dealer he owed money. Jeanette guesses it was a pimp who smacked him around, probably because the doctor didn't pay for a hooker, or maybe because he wrote the girl a bad check. Both women say that Dr. Lippton had a lot of trouble with finances. If you want proof, Jeanette says, just ask Bill Clinton.
According to newspaper reports, in 1998 Lippton wrote two $10,000 checks for a pair of tickets to a Democratic fundraiser. He got his picture taken with the president, but both checks bounced.
In 2000, Lippton's cocaine and hooker habit led to a problem with the federally funded Medicare program. Someone tipped off the feds that Lippton had been submitting fraudulent bills for several years, charging the government for respiratory therapy treatments for the elderly that he hadn't performed. It didn't take long for the FBI to turn up about $1.3 million in fake Medicare claims. They also turned up more than $333,000 in personal checks the doctor had written to Jeanette Maier and Tommie Taylor. It made the boys at the FBI kind of curious.
According to Kyle Shoenekus, Lippton's attorney, in a CBS News interview, FBI agents dragged the doctor into their office for questioning. During the interrogation, one of the agents asked a very simple question, "Dr. Lippton, do you want to go to jail for a very long time?"
Caught with his hand in the Medicare cookie jar, Lippton started spinning a tale about a mob-operated brothel that he said was really a front for a Mafia heroin and cocaine distribution network.