SEATTLE The owner of Seattle-area drive-up coffee stands that offered caffeine and sex acts and earned hundreds of thousands of dollars in tips for her baristas pleaded guilty to felony charges of fraud and promotion of prostitution, the county prosecutor's office said on Tuesday.
Carmela Panico, 52, must forfeit some $250,000 that police seized from her home last year and surrender her five coffee businesses in the Seattle area, the Herald of Everett newspaper reported, citing the Snohomish County Prosecuting Attorney's Office.
A paralegal with the office confirmed the plea deal but did not provide specifics.
"The business was popular," an affidavit filed late last month in Washington state Superior Court in Snohomish County said.
"Citizen complaints and police contacts alerted several law enforcement agencies that Panico and her employees would expose their breasts and genitals, engage in lewd conduct, and have sexual contact with some of their customers," it said.
Panico owned and operated coffee sheds, with names like "Java Juggs" and "Twin Peaks" in Seattle area cities of Everett, Edmonds, Lynnwood, and Kent and sought to hide her money through financial transactions from April 2011 to June 2013, the court documents said.
Some baristas made between $15,000 and $30,000 in a month and one reportedly earned $89,000 in a single month, the charging documents alleged.
Customers in many cases would pay a barista $20 - $6 for a coffee plus $14 to expose her breasts or bottom. One barista said she made about $100,000 per year, the affidavit said.
Panico must also testify against a former Snohomish County sheriff's sergeant who is accused of warning Panico about police investigations into her drive-up brothels in exchange for sex, the Herald of Everett said.
The newspaper reported Snohomish County deputy prosecutor Bob Hendrix as saying he plans to recommend that Panico be sentenced to two days in jail and get credit for two days she has served. She faces up to a year in jail when she is sentenced in March.
Panico did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
(Reporting by Eric M. Johnson in Seattle; Editing by Ken Wills)