Some 200 law enforcement officers swarmed three Tukwila motels on Highway 99 early Tuesday morning following a year-long investigation into illegal drug and prostitution activity at the three sites.(Photo by Erika Schultz / The Seattle Times)
UPDATED: 1:55 p.m. | At a news conference in Tukwila this afternoon, U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkan and Tukwila Police Department Assistant Chief Bruce Linton said that the three hotels at the center of the investigation have accounted for 17 percent of all calls for police services in the past year.
Despite intense efforts to educate and work with the owners, the properties remained a huge drain on police and a blight on the city , said Tukwila Mayor Jim Haggerton.
Durkan said investigators believe the owners actively profited from criminal activity and that residents were involved. Typically, she said, the owners would direct potential customers to certain rooms for drugs and sexual services and take a cut of the profits.
Durkan said this is not only a “new day for a part of the city of Tukwila,” but also a warning to other owners of similar hotels and properties.
In addition, she said, this demonstrates how the US Attorney’s office will not only prosecute criminal activity but will actively use the tools of forfeitures and seizures to force compliance with the law
Federal and state law-enforcement officers poured into Tukwila along Highway 99 this morning seizing three motels whose operators are suspected of participating in illegal drugs and prostitution.
The operation involved about 200 officers at the scene and another 200 who helped develop the case during a year-long investigation that culminated in this morning’s raid, according to Tukwila Police Commander Eric Drever.
A federal criminal complaint, filed last week and unsealed today, charges seven people –including the managers and owners of the three motels — with attempted distribution and distribution of crack cocaine. According to the charges, a paid undercover informant purchased cocaine in deals set up with hotel residents by the hotel managers during the past month.
The complaint identified three of the defendants as Jaspal Singh, Lakhvir Pawar and Kulwinder Saroya, who federal prosecutors say ran and owned the hotels: the Great Bear Motor Inn, The Boulevard Motel and the Traveler’s Choice
In addition, a detailed, 48-page civil complaint filed in U.S. District Court seeks to forfeit the properties as proceeds from illegal transactions, including drug dealing and money laundering.
The complaint says that the hotels have been the focus of an inordinate amount of crime and calls for police. It states that the problems date back several years, however during 2011 and 2012, almost one of every six calls for service to Tukwila Police Department were to those three motels. “The crimes for which police responded to the Target Motels include, among others: rape, robbery, assault, drug transaction, gun crimes, prostitution and stolen property,” the civil complaint says.
“The investigation revealed that the owners of the properties are engaged in, encouraging and making significant cash profits from criminal activity at the Target Motels,” wrote Special Agent Joe Miller of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, in a sworn affidavit.
A federal warrant authorizing this morning’s raid was unsealed this morning. Several people have been taken into federal custody. Some individuals were picked up by local authorities on other outstanding warrants.