Robert Kraft, accused of soliciting prostitution, gave hundreds of millions to charitable causes

Joey Garrison

BOSTON – Just weeks ago, before Robert Kraft won his sixth Super Bowl as owner of the NFL's New England Patriots, he was awarded perhaps a greater honor.

The Genesis Prize is  given to leaders of Jewish heritage "who have attained international renown in their chosen professional fields" and "have made a significant contribution to improving the world." It's sometimes called the Jewish Nobel Prize.

The announcement capped decades of good works by the billionaire businessman, an icon not only in professional sports but in philanthropy. The $400 million he has contributed to a wide range of causes has earned him enormous goodwill in Boston and beyond.

Now Kraft is charged in Florida with soliciting prostitution. Authorities say he paid for sexual services at Orchids of Asia Day Spa in Jupiter, an operation police say is tied to an international human traffic ring.

Through a spokesman, Kraft has denied any illegal activity. In addition to legal jeopardy, he could face disciplinary action from the NFL.

The allegations stunned New England, where Kraft is a towering figure.

A spokeswoman for Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker, said the governor "finds these allegations deeply disturbing and condemns all acts of sexual exploitation."

More: Patriots owner Robert Kraft charged with soliciting prostitution in Florida spa

Kraft has been seen in the league and beyond as a figure who works to bring people together. He is credited with helping to settle the labor dispute that threatened the 2011 NFL season.

A Democrat, he is a longtime friend of President Donald Trump. He visited the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh last year following the mass shooting there that killed 11. A vocal supporter of Israel, Kraft has taken NFL players to the Jewish state on trips sponsored by the league.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is scheduled to present the 2019 Genesis Prize to Kraft in June. It comes with $1 million to be donated to Jewish causes.

A spokeswoman for the Genesis Prize did not respond to messages from USA TODAY.

Kraft is CEO and chairman of the Kraft Group, a holding company for several businesses. They include the Rand-Whitney Group, a family-owned packing company that launched his business career. In addition to the Patriots, he owns the New England Revolution, a Major League Soccer team.

His charitable causes include the Kraft Center for Community Health and the Kraft Family Blood Lab at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston. He also created the New England Patriots Charitable Foundation to support philanthropic agencies in the region.

Kraft leads a grant program that distributes gifts of $100,000 to area nonprofits, and he maintains a permanent endowment with Partners HealthCare to train and recruit health care professionals, according to the Kraft Group. 

The endowment, totaling $20 million, supports the Kraft Family National Center for Leadership and Training in Community Health.

Rich Copp, a spokesman for Partners HealthCare, declined to comment on the charges against Kraft. Other groups Kraft has supported, including the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, did not respond to requests for comment. 

Kraft also supports interfaith relations and Judaic studies programs at Brandeis University, the alma mater of his late wife, Myra, and has supported Jewish and athletic programs at Columbia University, his own alma mater.

Neither school responded to requests for comment.

Reach Joey Garrison at jgarrison@usatoday.com and Twitter @joeygarrison. 

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Robert Kraft, accused of soliciting prostitution, gave hundreds of millions to charitable causes