'Bikini barista' stand owner accused of running prostitution ring
EVERETT, Wash. -- An accused madam allegedly made millions off her string of bikini-clad baristas.
Snohomish County prosecutors have charged Carmela Panico with promoting prostitution and money laundering.
Police surveillance video that shows baristas doing much more than making lattes is at the heart of the case prosecutor have made against Panico. Everett police say Panico is the ringleader of a lucrative prostitution ring.
According to charging documents, Panico's bank records show she deposited more than $2 million between 2010 and 2013. The documents go on to say she kept two sets of books -- one detailing her actual profit, the other for the IRS and the state Department of Revenue. The records also indicate detectives seized $227,863 in cash when they searched her home.
The case began with complaints started coming in about baristas baring their breasts to customers for tips, and Everett Police Spokesman Officer Aaron Snell said it expanded from there.
"We were able to find out that there were many other crimes that were occurring simultaneous with the prostitution and the money laundering," Snell said.
The court records allege Panico would set a sales goal for each coffee shift, but that it was "effectively rent that the girls paid to have the opportunity to perform lewd conduct and acts of prostitution."
The documents go on to say that most of the baristas made $15,000 to $30,000 a month, with one barista reportedly earning $89,000 in a particular month. Panico would allegedly fine them if they didn't wear high heels, maintain a tan or wear proper make-up.
Panico's attorney reportedly told the court that she is now out of the coffee business and that she's either leased or sold all six of her coffee stands. But the barista at the Baby Dolls stand said Panico's long-time former manager still manages all of the stands and simply pays rent to Panico.
Panico wasn't available to comment on the story.
Everett Police say shutting down this alleged prostitution ring decreased crime in the surrounding neighborhoods and is a significant quality of life issue for this community.