Buyer, beware!  The Vice & High Risk Victims Unit of the SPD set up a successful sting operation in a Seattle massage parlor – the first of its kind in the city.

The Seattle Times describes the sting. Detectives reportedly used a massage parlor in the University District, which they had shut down earlier this year. The business had been shut down due to complaints and investigation into prostitution at both this location and the second location a few blocks away.

The sting operation ran 10 days and utilized undercover female officers (“UCs”). Detectives announced the grand opening of “Euro Spa”, formerly Bamboo Spa, and posted website advertisements. UCs blatantly offered sexual services to the men who set up appointments by phone or sought services in person. Please reference the Seattle Times article for more detailed information about the operation.

Police were astounded by the volume of business elicited by the operation; 204 men, from all walks of life, were arrested for seeking paid sexual services.

In prior stings led by the Vice & High Risk Victims Unit, men were arrested and released, receiving a summons in the mail later. The Seattle PD is now pushing mandatory jail bookings when men are arrested for sexual exploitation.

Sexual Exploitation is the name adopted by the Seattle City Council in 2015 to replace the name of the crime “patronizing a prostitute”.

There is no difference in the law behind “sexual exploitation” vs “patronizing a prostitute”, just in the name. The choice to change the name, according to the City Attorney’s Office, had to do with removing the demeaning connotation of using “prostitute” as a noun. This change was another step in Seattle’s shift to re-focus prostitution efforts on targeting solicitors of sex work and businesses that promote the sex trade.

Given the increase of police attention on prostitution activity, it is important to understand the law:

“Sexual Exploitation” in Seattle is the same crime as “Patronizing a Prostitute”, as it remains called elsewhere in Washington State. This crime is a misdemeanor under Washington State legislature (RCW 9A.88.110). A person is guilty of patronizing a prostitute if:

  • Pursuant to prior understanding, he or she pays a fee to another person as compensation for such person or a third person having engaged in sexual conduct with him or her; or
  • He or she pays or agrees to pay a fee to another person pursuant to an understanding that in return therefor such person will engage in sexual conduct with him or her; or
  • He or she solicits or requests another person to engage in sexual conduct with him or her in return for a fee.
  • For purposes of this section, “sexual conduct” has the meaning given in RCW 9A.88.030

Patronizing or Sexual Exploitation charges can impact your job, family, criminal record, and even immigration status. An experienced criminal defense attorney can help. These are significant charges and you should not try to tackle them without experienced counsel to advise you appropriately and advocate on your behalf.