EVERETT, Wash. - The woman accused of turning her Puget Sound coffee stands into drive-through brothels pleaded guilty in Snohomish County court Tuesday.
Carmela Panico admitted to promoting prostitution and money laundering.
Before court, we tried to speak with Panico in the hallway. After she mumbled something about not wanting her face on TV for fear she would lose her job, Panico went into the women's restroom in the courthouse and stayed there for an hour.
When her attorney finally coaxed her out, she hid behind him, then in a conference room, until she faced the judge who read her guilty plea aloud: "I knowingly profited from prostitution activity and deposited the money in my bank account,” Judge Thomas Wynne read.
Panico also pleaded guilty to the money laundering.
Police said for two years, she netted millions by turning more than half a dozen of her bikini barista stands -- Java Juggs and Twin Peaks -- into drive-through brothels. Investigators claim she encouraged her employees to strip and perform sex acts on the customers. Police have it on undercover video and surveillance footage from the stands.
Panico could serve up to six months in jail for promoting prostitution and up to a year for the money laundering. Tuesday, the prosecutor recommended a jail alternative. Neither Panico's attorney nor Panico wanted to share their feelings about that outcome with us.
"I don't have any comment,” she told us as she left the courtroom.
The prosecutor told us Panico won't be sentenced for six months because of other pending cases connected to hers. Last spring, a former Snohomish County deputy accused of trading police information for sexual favors was charged with felony promoting prostitution.
We went by Panico's stands in Everett Tuesday. They are now under new ownership. Her attorney confirmed she sold or is leasing them all.