FBI officials said yesterday that raids on three District of Columbia massage parlors and related outcall massage services late Thursday are part of a new strategy to go after the owners and profits of the Washington area's flourishing sex business.
Federal law-enforcement officials have generally ruled themselves out of any battles over the morality of sex-related businesses here, which have become so common that suspected prostitution houses advertise in newspapers and the telephone book and flourish within blocks of the White House.
The new effort, directed at what one high-level FBI agent broadly terms the "smut industry" -- adult and child prostitution, pornography and the production of sex-related merchandise -- is focused on the white-collar nature of the sex business in Washington.
This includes its links with legitmately run busnesses and its ties to such other crimes as bribery, extortion and blackmail of public officials caught in sexually compromising situations, according to Theodore N. Gardner, the special agent in charge of the FBI's Washington field office.
"The most effective way to fight it is to hit them in the pocketbook, and that's going to be our approach," Gardner said. "We're not the purveyors of the community's morals.
"We're looking at the enterprises themselves more than the individual hookers or johns," Gardner said. "Our objective is to attack the sources of money" behind organized prostitution and call-girl operations.
"I really couldn't care a fig about [arresting] these hookers," said one federal prosecutor who is involved in investigations of sex-oriented businesses.
The nearly two-year investigation of the businesses raided Thursday indicated that the three D.C. massage parlors and the outcall message dispatch services did more than $1 million a year in business, according to sources familiar with the investigation.
The probe also found that proceeds from the massage and outcall businesses, including credit card receipts, could be traced to the bank accounts of at least one other corporation controlled by an individual identified as Karl Klaus Bolle, 52, the alleged head of the sex operaton, according to an FBI search warrant affidavit.
Bolle, reached by telephone yesterday, declined to comment on the FBI's allegations. Asked if he denied the allegations, Bolle replied: "Of course," but then added, "I have nothing to say." Bolle has homes outside Manassas and in the small town of Ruckersville, Va., about 70 miles southwest of Washington.
No criminal charges have been filed against Bolle as a result of the FBI probe.
Prosecutors are expected to present the case to a federal grand jury in the coming weeks. Former employes have told FBI agents that the parlors and the outcall services were covers for an alleged prostitution and call-girl operation, according to the FBI affidavit, which was filed with U.S. magistrates in Washington and Alexandria in support of the search warrants for the raid.
Bolle, according to the FBI affidavit, also controls a car rental agency, a private security guard firm, and taxi cab companies -- all located at the same Fairfax County address, 8446 Lee Highway. For example, Bolle holds operating licenses for the Springfield yellow Cab and the Herndon-Reston Cab Co., according to Fairfax police taxi license records. The FBI affidavit did not connect the taxi companies to the massage parlor and outcall businesses.
The FBI seized thousands of records, including a truck load of documents from Bolle's Fairfax office, in Thursday night's searches for five locations -- the three massage parlors, a Burke home occupied by the manager of one of the massage parlors and outcall services, and Bolle's offices.
The records were taken in an attempt by the FBI to develop enough evidence to bring criminal charges in the investigation under a special federal statute designed to combat the use of proceeds from illegal activities, such as prostitution, in the operation of legitimate businesses, according to FBI officials.
The federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations statue gives the government the authority to seize businesses that are financed with funds derived from illegal activities. In 1977, for example, after the owner of the former Sylvester's Restaurant and Polish Pub, located at 1129 21st St. NW, was convicted under the racketeering statue of using the establishment as a front for a cocaine selling operation, the government seized the restaurant-bar and auctioned it.
The three D.C. massage parlors raided were the Sweetheart, at 5123 Georgia Ave. NW; Coquette Health Salon, at 1633 Connecticut Ave. NW, and The Desert Inn Health Spa, at 3433 Connecticut Ave. NW. Bolle's name has appeared on the D.C. occupancy permits for Coquette and Sweetheart parlor, but there is no current occupancy permit on file for The Desert Inn, according to the affidavit.
The massage parlors contained phone banks that were used to dispatch women "masseuses" for the outcall services, which operate under such names as "Venus," "Lux" and "Now," according to the FBI. "We Deliver Anywhere . . . With Our Own Very Special Measure of Personal Attention," says a telephone ad for the "Lux" service.
Women employes dispatched from D.C. to hotels and residences in the Maryland and Virginia suburbs were provided with credit card receipts that enabled customers to pay for the services with credit cards, including Master Charge and Visa, the FBI affidavit said. However, some credit card recepts did not carry the names of either the massage parlors or the outcall services. Instead, according to the Fbi affidavit, some bore the names of other companies, including car rental firms allegedly controlled by Bolle.