Jeff Humphrey, of KXLY4, reports the Airway Heights Police Department (WA) are using warrants, obtained through a judge of special inquiry, to seize businesses’ assets in admitted attempts to kill businesses allegedly involved in prostitution–without bothering to bring charges, disclose evidence, or afford hearings:
Later this week, a pair of lawsuits filed against the Airway Heights Police Department will pull back the curtain on a secret investigation that targeted alleged prostitution rings in Spokane. The owners of two Asian spas raided last summer are demanding the return of thousands of dollars, seized during simultaneous raids.
Six months ago, the police raided Joe Jeans Oriental Spa on North Division, arresting 62-year old Yong Cha Kassim and seizing her black Mercedes. Now, she’s heading back to Superior Court, hoping to get that car returned. A 14-month long investigation identified almost 200 women working as prostitutes in massage parlors, where investigators say there were no massage tables at all.
“Each of these spas were different,” explained Airway Heights Police Chief Lee Bennett in July. “In talking with the undercover officers and our confidential informants, they all work about the same – where a customer will come in, pay a door fee. Once that door fee is paid, then depending on what type of service that customer wants the price goes from there.”
Investigators say the spas were clearing $10,000 a month. When they searched the Oriental Spa owner’s safety deposit box, they found $38,900 in $100 bills and another $20,000 in $50 bills.
Police seized the spas’ assets in the hopes of putting them out of business.
“Well this is a cash-driven business and if they don’t have cash, they’re not going to reopen the doors,” said Airway Heights Police Detective Kelly Justice at the time of the raids. “Because you have to pay for electricity. you have to pay for all the items that were seized as evidence. And, if you don’t have the cash it makes it a lot harder for them to reopen.”
Now, six months later, Oriental Spa North owner Chin Sim Day’s attorney Carl Oreskovich claims his client still hasn’t been made aware of the alleged evidence against her. That’s because investigators used a judge of special inquiry, in this case Kathleen O’Connor. Up until now, any of the search warrants she authorized have been kept secret.
Thursday, Oreskovich will argue his motion for the return of Day’s property. That will put prosecutors in the position of having to reveal their evidence, including having to release the names of the customers who patronized those spas. Jeff Humphrey, Asian spa owners demand details, seized property, KXLY4, 08 Jan. 2013.
Using seizure power to summarily inflict punishment on an alleged offender (no matter how guilty the police may believe the offender be), without first affording even rudimentary process protections, is repugnant and unreasonable. The concerted (and admitted) attempt to kill the business by starving it of assets before (if ever) bringing the case for independent review exacerbates the harm by eliminating the availability for process protections before punishment is substantially delivered.
Clearly, due process demands more.