Louis Michael Parrish, who prosecutors said headed the largest, most sophisticated prostitution ring in the Washington area, was convicted yesterday in federal court of five counts of conspiracy, interstate racketeering and prostitution.
Two of Parrish's top associates, Larry J. Wadino and Kathy Lynn Caldwell, were also found guilty of conspiracy and racketeering.
The jury of 10 men and 2 women deliberated in Alexandria federal district court less than four hours before handing down the verdicts late yesterday.
The jury is scheduled to resume deliberations today on the remaining nine counts against Parrish and Wadino.
All three declined to comment before slipping out the side door of the federal courthouse in Alexandria. Caldwell, who cried softly after the verdict was read, was consoled by Parrish.
Judge Oren R. Lewis set sentencing for the codefendants on April 13. All three were released on personal bond.
U.S. Attorney William B. Cummings who prosecuted the case said yesterday it is "a possibility" that Parrish will testify before the grand jury investigating possible political corruption in Alexandria.
Cummings called the multiple count indictment against Parrish and his associates one of "the largest Mann Act (interstate prostitution) cases ever prosecuted in recent years" in Virginia.
As a result of yesterday's verdicts, Parrish faces a possible sentence of 30 years in prison and $35,000 in fines. Wadino faces 10 years in prison and $15,000 in fines. Caldwell, who has no remaining charges against her, faces 10 years in prison and $15,000 in fines.
If convicted today of the remaining charges, Parrish could face a total of 60 years in prison and $65,000 in fines. Wadino's sentence could be increased to 25 years in prison and $30,000 in fines.
The federal investigation into Parrish's once-flourishing network of massage parlors and "outcall" masseuse dispatch services began early two years ago and ended Jan. 29 when a grand jury handed down multiple indictments against the defendants.
Yesterday's guilty verdicts were the culmination of efforts by a team of federal investigators to infilitrate the secretive Parrish organization. Their efforts spread to Maryland and the District of Columbia and included surveillance of 11 Parrish-owned massage parlors and several telephone outcall banks where woman were said to be routinely dispatched across state lines for the purpose of prostitution.
The verdicts followed two days of explicit testimony given by former Parrish employes, one of whom said the stocky businessman wanted to operate "the best damn whorehouse in Alexandria."
Jude Lewis, in ordering a presentencing report on Parrish, told the 32-year-old college graduate and former Marine, "I'm interested in what got you into this business."
According to prosecutors and documents seized by the FBI, Parrish advertised his massage parlors in the yellow pages and through leaflets handed out on street corners. The lucrative organization studied convention schedules and hotel occupancy lists. "It was a busy night when the farmers were in town last year," Parrish's former promotion director testified, referring to a protest that brought hundreds of armers to Washington.
Federal prosecutors, who had spent nearly one year putting the case together, argued strenuously in their closing statements that the three defendants operated a highly profitable prostitution syndicate while shielding themselves behind ficticious names and "subjecting themselves to minimal public exposure."
What the government had presented, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul N. Murphy, was "a slice of a sleazy business." That enterprise, according to assistant prosecutor Henry E. Hudson, was devoted to "high profits and unlawful prostitution."
Hudson recalled the graphic testimony given by 13 government witnesses who described what the prosecutor said was the "lewd and lascivious" nature of the Parrish massage parlor empire.
Hudson said Wadino was Parrish's "alter ego" who managed the financial aspects of an organization that reportedly grossed $1 million a year. Although few financial figures were presented to the jury, the manager of one massage parlor said he took in $36,000 in one week and one former masseuse testified she earned $2,400 in one weekend.
Caldwell, Hudson said, set up and managed the "Foxy Lady" outcall service in Washington which regularly dispatched women to Maryland and Virginia on "interstate dates" for the purpose of prostitution. One masseuse testified that she was once paid "in dimes." Hudson also recalled testimony that the women received no formal training in giving massages and that charging $250 for an "all-night massage" was inconsistent with business practices of legitimate health salons.
Parrish's defense attorney, Jacob Stein, angrily attacked the credibility of the government witnesses, most of whom Stein called "utterly contemptible people." The government's case, Stein told the jury, "rests on the rot of informants."
Several witnesses who testified against Parrish had already pleaded guilty to one count of interstate racketeering and had agreed to cooperate with the government by appearing before a federal grand jury, which indicted the three codefendants Jan. 29.
The government's star witness, Clyde Ballard (Skip) Stovall, who was ranked third in the Parrish hierarchy, was "an utter scoundrel," Stein told the jury.
"There is a group of men who are attracted to massage parlors," Stein told the jury. "They may be lonely... they may want the company of a woman to sit and talk."