Friday, November 14, 2003
Patricia Biggs and Emily Bittner
Prostitution sting nabs 72
Deputies arrest women, clients countywide
One was a 60-year-old Sun City woman. Another a Tempe woman with a brand-new $60,000 boat. And another advertised herself as a former Miss Canada.
They were among the 45 women arrested Thursday in the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office's prostitution raid, which swept from Wittmann to east Mesa. A companion operation netted 27 male customers.
Operation House Call targeted 33 homes and 10 massage parlors, while Operation Destiny ran a sting out of three Valley hotels, arresting men who came to pay for sex. Among the men were a local radio station's sales director, an airline pilot and a state correctional officer.
Women arrested on suspicion of running houses of prostitution face felony charges. Men arrested on suspicion of soliciting sex face misdemeanor charges.
Sheriff Joe Arpaio said previous prostitution stings were criticized because they targeted only the women. This time around, he went after the customers.
Outside Margaret Miller's modest Sun City condo, a sign warned of neighborhood Block Watch on the lookout for crime. Her neighbor had a Sun City Posse sponsor sticker on the door.
But undercover detectives say Miller, 60, has been enticing men in for $125 tricks, using an alias of "Allison."
Thursday morning, as a neighbor put up a sign on the corner advertising a garage sale, deputies banged on Miller's door, arrested her and searched the house.
Deputies said they found the house partitioned by curtains, with a private area where Miller lived and an area for clients, with an inflatable mattress on a pedestal, candles and fragrance. They also found four cases of condoms.
Miller ran an ad promising "silken fingers, roaming hands" and requesting White male clients over 45.
After her arrest, she admitted to a 1980s arrest in California for prostitution and said she had been running the ad since March, deputies said.
Miller declined to comment on her arrest.
Arpaio kicked off the eight-week undercover investigation after a Sept. 3 bust of a massage parlor near his home made him realize that prostitution "must be everywhere."
During a news conference, Arpaio defended the sweep and called it just as valid as chasing murderers.
"We're a full-service law enforcement agency," he said. "We go after everybody."
He said prostitution, which some consider a victimless crime, brings in diseases, crime, guns, drugs and domestic violence.
Sheriff's detectives spent $12,000 in seized drug funds during the operation, but they found $36,000 when they searched the homes and massage parlors.
Once the women are booked into jail, they will be kept until they are checked for any sexually transmitted diseases, part of a new state requirement.
"We have an epidemic of syphilis," Arpaio said.
While prostitution is a misdemeanor, running a house of prostitution is a felony.
"If you're going to have a law on the books, enforce the law," Arpaio said.
Deputies will decide whether to seize the women's homes and cars after more investigating, he said. They are checking the women's ledgers for current customers.
Deputies take notice
One suspect, Kelly Beth Beach, 36, seemed to be living well beyond her means in a Tempe neighborhood of mostly retirees and professionals, detectives said. A 2003 lifted Ford F-350 was parked in the driveway. Deputies saw a luxury boat worth about $60,000 and brand-new dirt bikes at her house.
Detective Brandon Uptain, who coordinated that raid, said Beach could be bankrolling her lifestyle with prostitution earnings of up to several thousand dollars a week.
Deputies raided her house in the 2000 block of East Malibu Drive at 8:02 a.m. Beach was taken away in handcuffs 90 minutes later.
Inside, deputies said, they found two of her ads, lauding her as a "hot shot, hard body and discreet," hanging from the refrigerator.
In the ads, Beach, a k a "Niki Lynn," wears a black wig and little else.
Deputies found handcuffs and restraints attached to her bed, which had a box of sex toys underneath. There were 11 handguns, rifles and shotguns in the house and 67 homemade videos, deputies said. Beach was naked in bed with a 19-year-old man, but there was no sign he paid for sex, Uptain said.
A 23-year-old woman staying at the house was arrested on outstanding felony warrants involving drunken driving and drugs.
Beach declined to comment, but she told police she recently stopped working as a prostitute and planned to become a professional fisher.
Uptain rated the morning arrest a success.
"It's great, a happy ending," he said. "She copped to everything. I got all the evidence in the world."
Callers take the bait
After the women were arrested, female deputies answered their phone calls, sending callers to the three hotels. Deputies also had placed ads for the three women: "Destiny," "Crystal" and "Brittany."
Among the hundreds of calls the teams fielded, there were several bizarre requests.
One man wanted a woman to run in sneakers to get her feet sweating before donning stiletto heels; another wondered whether being in a wheelchair was a deal-breaker; and one woman wanted to join in with her boyfriend for his birthday.
One man called Crystal to ask if he could bring his soldier friend, recently returned from Iraq. He was told not to.
"He deserves a little better than being thrown in jail," said Detective Shari Decker, who posed as Crystal.
Arpaio said the world's oldest profession isn't going to end anytime soon.
"It'll still be there, but they'll never know when we're coming back."
Reach the reporter at firstname.lastname@example.org or (602) 444-7961.
Created: November 24, 2003
Last modified: January 13, 2004
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