Controversial former MP Jami-Lee Ross is running a downtown Auckland escort agency under the alias Dylan Rose and some women working there have concerns for their conditions, welfare and safety.
Ross is operating the agency under the business name Sapphire Blue and engaging more than 20 women. According to an internet domain search, Sapphire Blue’s website was registered in June 2022.
The site registrant’s name is Dylan Rose, as is the admin and technical contact. Newsroom understands Dylan Rose is Ross’ pseudonym and it is what the women working at Sapphire Blue call him.
Sapphire Blue bills itself, on its homepage, as offering “Auckland Viaduct’s Premier Escorts”.
But several staff worried at the conditions they are having to work under have approached a trusted person, who has spoken to Newsroom on their behalf on the condition of anonymity to protect the escorts.
She said: “Alarming information has arisen about vulnerable young women working for Jami-Lee Ross within the escort industry. These women are left traumatised and fear for their safety.”
Some of the women are as young as 18. They have told their support person of being left alone in apartments across several unmonitored locations without adequate safety protocols or panic alarms and of client assaults and intimidation without follow-up or support for physical or emotional wellbeing.
Ross has not responded to repeated requests from Newsroom for comment from any of his three phone numbers – one of which was confirmed by a Sapphire Blue escort.
The business is said to take 40 percent of the women’s earnings, considered about average in New Zealand.
Sapphire Blue escorts are generally charged out at $250 per hour, with Ross earning $100 an hour and $70 per half hour.
Newsroom understands this would be more acceptable for the escorts if he was providing the safety and security he should be when they are faced with “difficult clients”.
Working relationships with and between the women have led to claims of bullying and a bad work environment, with people afraid to speak up.
The escorts’ spokesperson said the NZ Prostitutes Collective website includes occupational health and safety measures and the standard of care expected but “it is clear from what I am being told that [Sapphire Blue] is operating at the lower end of what is considered safe for the women … and something needs to be done about it and done fast.”
Ross, who at the last election was co-leader with Billy Te Kahika of the Advance Party, did not get elected to Parliament.
He had earlier been expelled by the National Party and then charged by the Serious Fraud Office and found not guilty of electoral donations fraud in October 2022 after a seven-week trial. The court heard detailed defence evidence from psychiatrists aware of his acute mental health issues. His lawyer said Ross’ claims about National and fraud had been “entirely unreliable” and that he had lied and lied.
He had faced detailed accusations of bullying and sexual harassment against staff and others at Parliament and during his political career.
The escort agency business venture operates from three apartment buildings around the Viaduct Basin area, and has prompted complaints at one building from other residents irritated by the stream of male visitors to one residence.
One building manager confirmed by phone on Friday morning that complaints had been received for the apartment number provided by Newsroom, but would not give further information on residents’ issues.
Newsroom has been told police were called to one venue recently.
One of the escorts told Newsroom that clients had been able to book again after mistreating women. “It leaves me feeling unsafe and unprotected with nowhere to turn.”
She said raising concerns with ‘Dylan’ had not resulted in improvements.
“I think there should be some sort of a database or black list of clients who have committed offences to prevent them from being able to re-book – we need to be safe from repeat offenders and we are not.”
The escorts’ spokeswoman questioned if Ross’ history could have been taken into account when the business obtained the required licence to operate [brothel operator certificate].
A tenant who lives at an apartment block on the Viaduct said it was well known that the ex MP was running an escort agency. The tenant understood numerous complaints had been made to the buildings’ management.
“I know that it has been operating for at least eight months. There are at least two apartments in this particular complex being used day and night for the business.”
Operating a brothel is legal and licensed by the Ministry of Justice.
But the issue for tenants has been the constant noise from intercom phones ringing at all hours, the noise outside the hallway, the discomfort of seeing a group of almost nude girls (non tenants) using access to the gym, swimming pool, sauna and spa and the concern for safety for tenants because of access given to random visitors.
“Late last month the police were called to one of the apartments late at night. They were very visibly parked in the courtyard and this caused disruptions to the apartments nearby,” the tenant told Newsroom.
“This is where we live and for him to disrupt peace for hundreds of tenants is very unwelcome.”
Sapphire Blue markets itself on its website as having been run by “independent girls”.
“Located in the heart of the waterfront, our agency grew from the shared efforts of a group of independent girls working together,” it reads.
“When you visit a Sapphire Blue Escort you will be enthralled by her beauty, captivated by her elegance, and charmed by her personality. Our ladies all offer a premium Girlfriend Experience, focused on mutual pleasure for you both.
“We are dedicated to respect, safety and discretion for all of our escorts. We guarantee the same for you.”
About 10 escorts were listed as being available on a recent Saturday, at shifts around the clock.
The agency accepts payment from clients via cash, eftpos, and online.
“Cash is preferred, however card options are available on request.”
Sapphire Blue employs more than 20 women as escorts. Each has a photo, with details including their age, height, size, and bust.
“Our escorts come in all shapes and sizes, from size 6 petite girls, all the way through to size 18 BBW big beautiful women,” the website says.
“We have a mixture of European girls, and those with exotic backgrounds, and we have girls ranging from those with extensive artwork [tattoos] and body modifications, all the way through to girls with pure untouched skin.”
The women cover a range of ethnicities and their ages range from 18 to 42. The majority of the women are in their late teens and early 20s.
The Sapphire Blue website says each escort has her own work phone that clients can message to make a booking via text or phone call. The website says the agency has escorts who perform the roles of manager and team leader.
There is no mention of the involvement of a person named Dylan Rose, or that a man is involved in the running of the business.
The women employed by Sapphire Blue work from “a range of upmarket waterfront apartments” at Auckland’s Viaduct. Clients are given the address and apartment details once they’ve confirmed a booking.
The only person a client sees or interacts with during a booking is the escort whose services they are paying for.
“Your privacy and discretion is our priority so you will not have to deal with any receptionist or security guard.”
Under the section telling people how to be an ideal client, the website says that while the job of an escort can be “extremely exciting and empowering for a female, it also comes with certain levels of risk and vulnerability”.
Abusive or aggressive behaviour, including failing to listen to and respect the escort’s boundaries, will see the client being asked to leave. There are no refunds if a client is asked to leave due to bad behaviour.
“Payment does not mean ownership. Agreeing to a booking doesn’t mean agreeing to being treated like an object.”
Clients are also warned not to “pass judgment” on the escort they’re seeing or to criticise her looks and appearance.
“No good ever comes from putting others down, especially not in the bedroom. Remember that while your escort is a professional service provider, she is also a human being who deserves respect, patience, tolerance and discretion.”
*This story was made with the help of the Public Interest Journalism Fund*