Local news

Police hope casino sex sting turns up pimp lead

Police are looking for a pimp in connection with a recent prostitution sting at Northern Quest Casino.

Authorities hope to find the evidence in text messages on a cellphone belonging to an accused prostitute, according to a search warrant filed in Spokane Superior Court.

“Each girl usually has a driver or someone who looks out for them, or in other words, a pimp,” said Airway Heights Police Chief Lee Bennett. If investigators find the necessary evidence, he or she could face a charge of promoting prostitution.

The initial investigation began Nov. 14 when Kalispel Tribal Police informed Airway Heights of a rise in prostitution at the casino and resort, Bennett said.

Detectives targeted prostitutes advertising on Backpage.com, a website similar to Craigslist where sex for hire is often advertised. The women met undercover detectives at the casino, said Detective Kelly Justice. Investigators observed whether the women were dropped off at the casino by another person.

Police arrested four women, all in their 20s, Justice said.

Authorities routinely ask suspected prostitutes whether they’re working with a pimp, and most deny that they are, Justice said.

Police think the cellphone evidence will prove otherwise, at least in connection with one woman.

The recent sting is not connected to Operation Red Light – a yearlong investigation triggered by tips from prostitutes arrested at the casino that resulted in multiple arrests and raids of eight Spokane massage parlors in July 2012.

Prostitution at the casino is an ongoing issue, said Kalispel Tribal Police Sgt. Rodney Schurgar.

“It’s going on all the time whether we are seeing it or not,” Schurgar said. “We try to keep it down. It’s not the kind of business we want. But when we are hearing reports of a higher-than-normal rate, we get local law enforcement involved.”

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