A 33-year-old Northwest Washington man has been convicted in D.C. Superior Court for pandering in connection with a scheme to hire prostitutes--the first conviction for pandering in the city in five years, according to police.
Donald Eugene Lewis of 525 Powhaten Place NW, who worked as a security guard at the Sheraton Washington Hotel, was convicted Thursday of two counts of pandering. Lewis faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $1,000 fine for each count.
In recent months, the police department's prostitution unit has "redirected" its undercover efforts to focus more on prosecuting pimps, said Lt. Robert A. Poggi, commanding officer of the prostitution and morals division.
He said that police arrested 1,271 prostitutes last year, but arrested only five pimps, none of whom was prosecuted. Poggi said the U.S. attorney's office requires a "standard of proof" to prosecute pimps, which calls for at least two prostitutes to testify against the suspect at trial.
" . . . With the amount of violence these women are subjected to and the humiliation they might be put through by a defense attorney . . . we have had difficulty in getting these women to testify," Poggi said.
The investigation of Lewis began last June, police said, after the hotel's security director received a complaint from a hotel guest who alleged that Lewis had tried to persuade her to become a prostitute.
Police sent 3rd District undercover officers Yvonne Moore and Jean Willliams to the hotel. Lewis eventually met with the officers and told them he could arrange for them to work at the hotel as prostitutes, police said.
Lewis had been working at the hotel as a security guard for about six months, said detective George P. Johnson, who also worked on the case. Johnson said Lewis appeared to be working alone in connection with the prostitution scheme. The hotel was not involved in the scheme.