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7th suspected brothel owner arrested

The owner of two Spokane businesses suspected of being prostitution fronts was released from jail Thursday after being arrested Wednesday.

William R. Westover, 41, faces money laundering and promoting prostitution charges after a 14-month investigation culminated in raids at eight suspected brothels.

Westover owns the Far East Oriental Spa, 213 E. Sprague Ave., and the Asian Spa, 3130 N. Division St. Investigators with the Airway Heights Police Department developed confidential informants after a prostitution sting at Northern Quest Casino.

One of those informants applied for jobs with Westover and told detectives he had her display her naked breasts. Another informant said she gave Westover a massage and had sex with him, accepted payment, then declined his job offer.

Also, according to court documents, “during an interview with a confidential informant, Westover told the confidential informant that she could use a condom for a client the first time she saw the client but was not permitted after that.”

Police reviewed Westover's bank records and found he'd made 41 large deposits between January 2010 and April 2012 totally $165,000.

Six people connected to five other suspected brothels were released from jail Wednesday.

Suspected brothel owners released

Five women and one man arrested in a sweeping anti-prostitution investigation at Spokane-area spas and massage parlors have been released from jail.

The suspects, who own four of eight suspected brothels raided Tuesday, have no criminal records and were allowed to leave without posting bond. Prosecutors did not object to their release, and they were ordered to return to court July 23 to be arraigned on charges of second-degree promoting prostitution and money laundering

Read the rest of my story here.

Past coverage:

July 10: Eight suspected brothels raided in Spokane

Suspected area sex houses raided

Eight suspected brothels, including the Oriental Spa South at 515 S. Maple Ave., were raided across the Spokane area Tuesday by a multi-agency law enforcement task force. (SRphoto/Colin Mulvany)

A yearlong investigation into widespread prostitution in Spokane County culminated Tuesday with raids at eight suspected brothels in what authorities say is an attempt to permanently close the longtime businesses.

Complaints from Northern Quest Casino officials about prostitution activity prompted the Airway Heights Police Department to conduct undercover strings of suspected prostitutes who in turn agreed to work as confidential informants.

Read the rest of my story here.

Man charged with woman’s Aug. murder

A sex offender suspected of killing a Spokane woman who was working as a prostitute last August has been charged with murder.

Derrick Ross Vargas, 25, is to appear in Superior Court today on a first-degree murder charge for the brutal slaying of Evon M. Moore, 48, whose body was found in an alley near North Ralph Street and East Riverside Avenue Aug. 13.

Vargas was released from federal prison on Aug. 2 after serving about four years for having a sexual relationship with a 13-year-old girl when he was 19.

He's been in the Spokane County Jail since Sept. 23 after a Washington State Patrol trooper contacted him during a traffic stop and a woman jumped out of his truck and said she'd been raped. 

Police say the woman was working as a prostitute on East Sprague Avenue when she met Vargas.

Police realized Vargas' truck matched a truck seen on the surveillance video near where Moore's body was found.

Detectives found a pair of shoes with blood on them in Vargas' East Trent Avenue apartment that matched the shoe tread pattern found near Moore's body. They also found a purse believed to belong to Moore, who was a student at Spokane Community College.

Spokane police recommended murder, rape, robbery and kidnapping charges against Vargas in a case sent to prosecutors earlier this month. Look for an update later this afternoon on the formal charges against Vargas, which were filed Monday.

Woman: Spokane Prostitutes Ugly

A group of traveling prostitutes suspected of settling in Spokane told police they were making good money here because the local competition is so ugly. One woman is in custody and other arrests are possible as part of an ongoing investigation into a 36-year-old California man who investigators believe has been brokering sex deals while living out of motels in Portland, Seattle and Spokane. Two motel rooms in Spokane were searched this week. Shaquisha L. Jenkins, 22, was arrested on a misdemeanor prostitution charge Tuesday. … A Spokane police officer contacted Jenkins and an 18-year-old woman on East Sprague Avenue on Jan. 31 and was told “that because there is a lack of attractive prostitutes in the area, they are able to make fairly good money,” according to court documents/Meghann Cuniff, SR. More here. (Wikipedia photo for illustrative purposes)

Question: Given that Spokane boosters sometimes fumble around for a slogan that befits the community … can you think of anything that can be used from this story?

Cops: Sex offender tried to rape hooker

A sex offender jailed in California has been charged with trying to rape a Spokane prostitute at knifepoint.

Robert James Barbee, 38, also faces a federal charge of failing to register as a sex offender after investigators say he moved to the area from California without notifying authorities.

He was arrested in Oct. 17 after a woman recognized him as the man who tried to rape her Sept. 25 after she agreed to perform oral sex for $40, according to the Spokane Police Department.

The woman told police was working the corner of East Sprague Avenue and North Magnolia Street when she went with the man to an abandoned house and was attacked. The woman said she fought off the attack and was assisted by patrons at the Rainbow Room, a topless bar.

Police caught up with Barbee Oct. 17 after the woman called 911 and said her attacker approached her friend that day while they were working as prostitutes near Sprague and North Crestline Street. Officers found Barbee near East Second Avenue and South Perry Street, and he told them he'd been attacked by a man who accused him of raping a woman, according to court documents.

Barbee was arrested on a warrant out of California for failing to follow parole conditions for a theft/embezzlement against the elderly conviction. He told police he'd been in Spokane for about five weeks and was staying at the House of Charity.

A federal complaint filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Spokane alleges he failed to register as a sex offender here. He's required to do so because of a 1994 conviction for lewd and lascivious conduct with a 13-year-old child. Barbee last registered as a transient in San Joaquin County, Calif.

Spokane police Detective Brian Hamond says Barbee denied any knowledge of the incident during a phone interview in prison in Elk Grove, Calif. on Dec. 19. Barbee also denied carrying a knife, according to documents prepared by Hamond.

Spokane County prosecutors charged Barbee Dec. 20 with attempted first-degree rape and second-degree assault. He has not yet arrived in Spokane to face charges.

Murder suspect pleads not guilty to rape

A sex offender suspected of killing a 48-year-old Spokane woman pleaded not guilty to a separate rape case today in Spokane County Superior Court.

Derrick Ross Vargas, 24, remains in Spokane County Jail on $250,000 bond after his arraignment before Judge Sam Cozza.

Family members attended but declined to speak with media.

Vargas (pictured with his lawyer, Kari Reardon) is charged with first-degree rape for allegedly attacking a prostitute in his apartment after picking her up on East Sprague Avenue, near where Evon M. Moore's body was discovered on Aug. 13.

Vargas was released from federal prison on Aug. 2 after serving about four years for having a sexual relationship with a 13-year-old girl when he was 19.

Vargas was arrested Sept. 23 after a Washington State Patrol trooper stopped him for driving with a broken taillight and a woman jumped out of the truck and yelled, “He raped me!”, according to police.

Vargas was driving a red early ‘90s Chevrolet pickup, which matches the description of a vehicle caught on surveillance camera early Aug. 13 in the area where Moore’s body was found.

Vargas has not yet been charged in Moore's death.

Read the rest of my story here.

Past coverage:

Sept. 29: Sex offender suspected in Evon Moore homicide

Sept. 23: Recently released sex offender arrested for rape

Aug. 15: Slain woman was dedicated student, family says

John arrested after ‘trick gone bad’

A Spokane man was arrested on assault and attempted robbery after police found a prostitute bleeding from her head and barely conscious

James R. Jacobson, 32, is accused of assaulting the woman with a large rock while trying to get back $40 he'd given her for sex, according to court documents. He was released from jail on his own recognizance Monday after appearing in Superior Court.

Police found the victim bleeding in front of the Bel Air Motel in the 1300 block of East Sprague Avenue about 2:06 a.m. Sunday.

A man who lives in an RV at 1407 E. Sprague said he heard the woman screaming on Perry Street, just north of Sprague, and saw a man chasing her, according to court documents. The man got into his car and sped away. The witness told officers he suspected it was a “trick gone bad,” police say.

The woman told police she used a pocket knife to defender herself and cut the man's hand before he knocked her down and struck her in the head with the rock.

Police say Jacobson had a large cut on his middle right finger as well as small cuts under each eye that indicated he'd been in a fight.

Jacobson told officers the prostitute had tried to rob him and denied striking her with a rock but admitted to paying her for sex, according to court documents.

Sex offender arrested for rape

A sex offender released from federal prison last month is accused of raping a Spokane prostitute in an attack that was discovered by an observant state trooper patrolling traffic.

Derrick Ross Vargas, 24, was arrested early Friday after a Washington State Patrol trooper said he stopped him for driving with a broken taillight and a woman jumped out of the truck and yelled “He raped me!”

Read the rest of my story here.

Man accused of threatening prostitute

A 48-year-old man who traveled to Spokane from California last week is accused of threatening a prostitute with a knife on East Sprague Avenue.

James L. Brewer, of Sacramento, is charged with second-degree assault after a prostitute told police he'd chased her with a knife and tried to grab her after stopping his silver 2001 Mercedes-Benz at Sprague Avenue and Spokane Street on Aug. 13 about 190:05 p.m.

The woman ran screaming to other prostitutes, who called 911. Police the next day spotted the Mercedes at Sprague and South Lee Street and contacted the occupants, one of whom identified himself as Brewer.

Brewer told police he'd just gotten into town the night before and had asked the woman for directions to a motel, but they ran way screaming “for no reason at all,” according to court documents. He denied pulling a knife on them. Brewer was arrested for intimation/display of a dangerous weapon, a misdemeanor and released from jail after appearing in Spokane County District Court.

A felony assault charge was just filed in Superior Court; Brewer, who gave court officials a Pines Road address, has not yet been arrested.

Man robbed while looking for prostitute

A man looking for sex with a prostitute was robbed of his cash after soliciting women on East Sprague Avenue in Spokane last weekend, according to court documents filed Tuesday.

Jessica N. Shelton, 22, and Joel M. Arevalo, 19, were arrested on first-degree robbery charges Saturday after Rodney G. Tongue said Arevalo attacked him after he approached Shelton and another female, whose name was not released because she is a juvenile, for sex, according to the Spokane Police Department.

Tongue said he believed the women were prostitutes, and they agreed to walk behind a dumpster at a gas station at 3602 E. Sprague to discuss “a prostitution deal,” according to a probable cause affidavit.

Arevalo knocked Tongue to the ground, knocking out his hearing aid, then left with Shelton, the juvenile and Tongue's $20. Police helped Tongue find his hearing aid. Officers located the three suspects at East 3rd Avenue and South Freya Street, and Tongue identified them in photo line ups.

Arevalo told police he devised the plan to rob Tongue with Shelton and the juvenile. Shelton said Arevalo gave her the money and they bought Camel cigarettes and five cans of Blast, an alcoholic energy drink by Colt 45, which police photographed as evidence.
  

Spokane prostitute charged with perjury

A Spokane prostitute is accused of lying about her identity and fabricating testimony during a bench trial last fall.

Jodi R. Macabitas, 42, alias Jodi R. Rima, appeared in court Tuesday on charges on felony charges of first-degree perjury and false swearing.

Investigators say Macabitas identified herself as Madison McBride during a possession of stolen property trial before Superior Court Judge Jerome Leveque last October.

Defendant Robert Wilkening, Jr., was acquitted after testimony that included Macabitas describing a plot between two men to falsely accuse Wilkening. Investigators believe Macabitas fabricated the story.

Deputy Prosecutor Bob Sargent said in court documents that Macabitas' testimony was “crucial to the case.”

But Wilkening's lawyer, Doug Phelps, said he doesn't believe Macabitas' was crucial to Wilkening's acquittal.

“We really didn't even need that testimony,” Phelps said. Phelps said he didn't relaize the woman had lied about her identity until Sargent told him after the trial.

Prior to testifying, Macabitas provided police a phone number that Detective David Staben says belonged to someone who claims not to know the woman. After her testimony, the man said he had a friend who matched the witness's description, leading Staben to identify Macabitas as a suspect.

Her parents described her as “a homeless person involved in the drug lifestyle,” according to a probable cause affidavit. Staben contacted Macabitas at 1st and Cowley, where she identified herself as a prostitute and “admitted that she lied about everything in court,” according to the affidavit.

Macabitas remains jailed on $2,000 bond.

Verdict means life in prison for rapist

A child rapist faces life in prison after a Spokane County jury convicted him Friday of three crimes involving sexual assaults against prostitutes.

Pierre D. West, 49, clenched his jaw and shook his head as Superior Court Judge Michael Price said a jury had convicted the registered sex offender of two counts of second-degree rape, two counts of unlawful imprisonment and one count of second-degree assault with sexual motivation.

He was acquitted of nearly 10 counts, including harassment, first-degree rape and first-degree kidnapping.

The jury of six men and six women deadlocked on two counts. One of the women who testified against West cried when she learned the jury acquitted him of raping her.

West qualifies for the state’s two-strikes, life-in-prison law for violent sexual offenders because of a previous conviction for third-degree rape of a child in 1988, said Deputy Prosecutor John Love.

Read the rest of my story: Sex offender convicted of rape, assault

Previous coverage:

Man convicted of raping prostitutes will get new trial

Jury convicts man of raping prostitutes

Trial begins for man accused of assaulting prostitutes

Valley man charged in rapes of 5 women

Trial this week for accused prostitute rapist

Jury selection is set to begin today for the second trial of a convicted sex offender accused of raping prostitutes.

Pierre D. West, 49, was convicted of two counts of second-degree rape, three counts of unlawful imprisonment, three counts of felony harassment and two counts of second-degree assault after a trial in May.

Those convictions were overturned in July after a juror acknowledged she knew West but had claimed otherwise during the selection process.

Opening statements in West’s second trial are expected this week before Judge Michael Price.

West has been in Spokane County Jail since his arrest in August 2007 on 15 felony counts after prostitutes claimed he’d terrorized them for years.

West acknowledged hiring prostitutes and enjoying rough sex, investigators said.

Past coverage:

Man convicted of raping prostitutes will get new trial

Jury convicts man of raping prostitutes

Trial begins for man accused of assaulting prostitutes

Valley man charged in rapes of 5 women