7 Held In Escort-Service Sting

Sixteen people were arrested and 13 places raided over the weekend as federal and local authorities capped a two-year investigation into escort services that allegedly operated as fronts for prostitution.

A 36-year-old Seattle man accused of racketeering and money laundering is alleged to have accumulated more than $2 million in a three-year period, federal prosecutors in Seattle said today.

The man, Robert Bennett, operated Personality Escorts and Elite Escorts, authorities said.

Charged separately with racketeering are a Bellevue couple, Allen Leon Stalcup, 44, and Mary Rebecca Stalcup, 51, who are alleged to have operated Executive Escorts, Prestige Escorts and A Gentleman's Preference, according to authorities.

The Stalcups allegedly personally derived $200,000 a year for at least the last couple of years.

Local authorities also have arrested 13 people said to be tied to a conglomerate of 10 separate escort agencies based in Federal Way as AAA Escorts.

Those suspects were arrested on various charges, including promoting prostitution, money laundering and criminal profiteering. They will be prosecuted by the state, federal authorities said.

Seattle vice detectives masqueraded as customers, or "johns," in the sting operation that led to the raids and arrests, according to federal authorities.

Prosecutors allege escort agencies would hire women and put a phone number in the Yellow Pages. When johns would call, they would provide a phone number and a hotel room where the johns could be reached. The escort service would then page the available escorts, who would go to the room and perform acts of prostitution, authorities said.

The fee was $150 an hour, of which the prostitute would keep $100, and turn over $50 to the escort service, authorities said.

Federal authorities declined comment when asked if they had lists of escort services' customers and what criminal liability the customers might face.

In addition to pursuing Bennett criminally, federal prosecutors have initiated civil forfeiture actions against him, seeking eight pieces of property in the Seattle area, including condos and single-family homes that allegedly were purchased with money laundered through the prostitution operation.

Friday night, agents searched Bennett's home and car, and the Stalcups' home, car and safe-deposit box. In addition, local and state authorities served search warrants at 10 locations in the Seattle-Tacoma area relating to activity involving AAA Escorts.