A federal grand jury has indicted 16 persons on various charges stemming from their alleged participation in an interstate prostitution ring that used paging devices, operated out of luxury D.C. hotels, advertised in the Yellow Pages and accepted credit cards from clients.
Businesses with such names as Oracle Associates, Washington Corner Establishment, 100 Club, Budget Outcall and Nevada Girls, operated under an umbrella organization called Congressional Liaison Inc. and advertised extensively in the C&P Yellow Pages, according to the 45-page indictment, which was unsealed yesterday.
The alleged prostitution ring used rooms at some of the city's finest hotels, according to the indictment, including The Madison, The Georgetown Inn, the Mayflower and the Vista.
Suburban hotels, including the Bethesda Marriott, the Rockville Ramada Inn, the Crystal City Hyatt Regency and the Springfield Hilton also were used to entertain clients, the indictment said.
Predawn raids were staged simultaneously yesterday in the District, Maryland and Virginia by area officers deputized as federal marshals, as well as by U.S. Secret Service and Internal Revenue Service agents.
In Prince George's, Montgomery, Fairfax, Arlington and St. Mary's counties and in the District, the law enforcement officers raided houses, apartments and a trailer.
Paulette B. Powell, 40, of Sacramento, Calif., and Willie J. and Lynda M. Maiden, both 34, of Upper Marlboro, described by law enforcement sources as "kingpins," were charged in the indictment with racketeering and conspiracy to operate a prostitution ring under the federal Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations statute.
This marks the second time that the 1970 law has been used in a prostitution case in the District.
The RICO statute is unique in that it focuses on patterns of criminal activity rather than on specific acts, and deals with a variety of interstate activities over a period of 10 years or more.
Under the law, two or more of those activities make up a third crime called racketeering.
"This is our second RICO prosecution involving prostitution and represents our commitment to using sophisticated legal tools to combat the organized prostitution that plagues the region," U.S. Attorney Joseph E. diGenova said yesterday through a spokesman.
Eleven women, using aliases such as Raven, Jade, Tara and Tiffany, were named in the indictment as prostitutes who were recruited with promises of legal help if they were arrested. They also signed business contracts, were given paging devices and credit card imprinters to carry, and were trained to use them, the indictment states.
The indictment charged that the businesses obtained merchant accounts with major credit card companies, including American Express, Diners Club, Choice, Visa and MasterCard, to enable clients to charge the services of prostitutes.
Law enforcement sources said that client lists and credit card receipts were seized during the long grand jury investigation and in raids yesterday.
The indictment charges that the prostitution ring operated "from at least or about" September 1977 through Feb. 2, 1987.
Powell is the former wife of Dennis Sobin, 43, a proponent of legalizing prostitution, who publishes several sex-oriented publications, and the mother of Darrin P. Sobin of Fairfax County, according to Dennis Sobin. Darrin Sobin, who allegedly worked as a telephone dispatcher, courier and record keeper in the organization, was named as a coconspirator in the 83-count indictment.
Powell, who was arrested yesterday in Sacramento, is described in the indictment as the full owner, chief officer and founder of Congressional Liaison Inc., who received the proceeds of the operations.
"I'm surprised I wasn't arrested. In fact, I'm disappointed. I'm the sex entrepreneur in the family; I make all the money," Dennis Sobin said in an interview yesterday. "I think they're afraid of me. What they did as typical hoodlum tactics was to harass my son to get to me."
The charges carry a maximum sentence of 25 years of imprisonment and a $25,000 fine upon conviction.
The indictment charged that Willie Maiden was the director of the company and manager of prostitution businesses known by various corporate names. Lynda Maiden was charged with being the operation's day-to-day manager.
The indictment also charged several defendants with wire fraud, interstate travel in aid of racketeering, and aiding and abetting.