Last updated November 18, 2008 11:26 p.m. PT

Karen Ducey / P-ISeattle police officers lead a woman out of a business on Aurora Avenue on Tuesday that authorities say was a front for prostitution. Two people were indicted.

Salons were brothels, Feds say

Two-year investigation brings five arrests at homes, businesses, boat

Federal agents and local police raided three "tanning salons" and arrested at least five people in the Seattle area Tuesday as part of a two-year investigation into what they say were fronts for prostitution.

A federal grand jury indicted Nguyen Tran Nguyen, 26, of Renton, and Donald K. Frey, 36, from California, on charges of conspiring to transport women for prostitution and conspiring to launder the proceeds of the alleged brothels.

Both were arrested Tuesday morning.

Frey owned the brothels through straw corporations called Crown Venture, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Ye-Ting Woo. Nguyen was Frey's manager -- as well as a prostitute -- operating the brothels disguised as tanning salons, spas and massage businesses, according to Woo and the indictment.

One of many products for sale is visible through the window of a salon that authorities say was actually a brothel.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and IRS agents, along with Seattle police and the King County Sheriff's Office raided five homes or businesses in Seattle, Kent and Renton and also searched three vehicles including a boat, the Island Girl, moored at the Westlake Marina on Lake Union, according to Woo and court records.

Investigators contend the pair operated brothels and named three of them -- the Avalon Spa, 9530 Aurora Ave. N. in Seattle; the Malibu Tanning Spa on Interurban Avenue South in Tukwila; and the Aloha Tanning Resort on Sunset Lane Northeast in Renton.

The businesses were advertised on the Internet through a site that attracted customers with tags such as "sexy Asians, hot Asian girls," and "adult entertainment."

The indictment lists instances in which women offered to perform a variety of sex acts for cash with undercover officers.

Federal prosecutors say that Nguyen booked more than 70 flights in 2006, 2007 and 2008, allegedly carrying prostitutes to work at these brothels. The prostitutes were shuttled between Seattle and California or Seattle and Texas, Woo said. Woo said the women are from various Asian countries and that some are in the United States legally and others are not.

Just after Seattle police escorted one young woman out of the tanning salon on North Aurora Avenue in handcuffs Tuesday afternoon, an obviously happy neighbor, Julie Lowenstein, walked by with her Yorkshire terrier.

"They busted them," the grinning woman said. "It's about time. I'm very pleased. It has been going on for too long."

Lowenstein said prostitution is rampant in the neighborhood.

"I've been approached while walking my dog, and I'm not a young girl. I'm tired of finding condoms on my walks."

The sales manager of Mattress Liquidators, next door to the Avalon, also applauded agents and police for the crackdown. "They need to clean up this neighborhood," said Karsten Logan. "From 85th to 105th, it's kind of a prostitution area."

If found guilty, the two defendants face up to five years in prison on the prostitution charge and 20 years on the money-laundering charge, Woo said. A federal magistrate judge ordered both held pending a detention hearing later this week. ... hel19.html