Police: Prostitution alleged at string of sexy Washington state latte stands

Posted at 6:33 PM, Jun 26, 2013

(CNN) — A sign over the Java Juggs latte stand reads “Some Like it Hot” and features a seductive image of a silhouetted woman in high heels, a devilish tail and horns, and seemingly little else.

Inside, authorities allege, customers got more than a sizzling beverage to kickstart their day.

Eight people were arrested Tuesday in connection to latte stands in Washington state that, the Everett police department says, served as fronts for prostitution and lewd conduct.

Those detained include the owner of seven stands in question, 51-year-old Carmela Panico, who state public records link to the Java Juggs establishments. Other records, including health inspection reports, indicate some stands targeted by police operated as Twin Peaks.

Panico was arrested for conspiracy to promote prostitution and permitting prostitution, according to police. But she is hardly the only one in hot water.

So, too, is Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Darrell O’Neill. The 30-year office veteran was arrested and booked Tuesday into Marysville Jail for conspiracy to promote prostitution and official misconduct, police said.

It was no secret that the stands were offering more than just coffee. A post on Java Juggs’ Facebook page included — in addition to pictures of women in lingerie — an invitation for patrons to “come and watch our girls dance on our new Stripper Pole.”

But having baristas work wearing scantily clad outfits is not illegal. Prostitution is another story.

In October 2012, authorities opened an investigation after getting complaints about alleged lewd conduct at a latte stand in Kent, which is about 20 miles south of Seattle. The probe — Everett police Deputy Chief Dan Templeman told CNN affiliate KING that it included video and in-person surveillance — eventually widened to include seven such stands tied to Panico and one residence.

This law enforcement effort wasn’t helped by the Snohomish County sergeant who, a barista told detectives, tipped off workers about the undercover probe and “engaged in inappropriate behavior while on the job,” police said.

O’Neill, 58, has been placed on paid administrative leave and is the subject of an internal investigation, according to the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office.

CNN’s Chandler Friedman and Greg Morrison contributed to this report.