by: Monique Ming Laven Updated:SEATTLE —
Lakhvir Pawar got busted in a huge raid this summer. Four hundred local and federal agents lowered the boom on three motels in Tukwila: Boulevard Motel, the Travelers Choice Motel, and the Great Bear Motor Inn.
Pawar was running the Boulevard Motel. Federal prosecutors put together a case showing Pawar knew drug dealers were doing business in his rooms. Evidence also showed Pawar was directing some of the illegal traffic and taking a cut, charging extra for the drug buyers who came through.
"The owners knew about it, they profited off it, and it was to such an extent that we could actually call those entities criminal dens," said U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkan, after the late August busts.
Pawar will be sentenced on federal charges in February.
But he is far from out of business. Pawar is part owner of Everspring Inn on Aurora Avenue in Seattle.
And you, the taxpayer, are covering the bill for some of his customers, increasing Pawar’s profits.
The City of Seattle funds an emergency housing program for the homeless; it's administered by the YWCA.
People living on the streets can turn to the program for hotel vouchers, which cover the cost of hotel rooms.
It's not cheap; the rooms cost $80-$100 per night. And the YWCA has approved the Everspring Inn to participate.
YWCA Senior Director Patricia Hayden explained, "Our goal is to address the immediate need of the family on the street, and this is a situation as part of the shelter system."
When KIRO 7 went to the Everspring Inn, we discovered that people who know it well -- neighbors, prostitutes, and junkies -- describe it as being very similar to the Tukwila motels busted in August.
"We've seen prostitution. We've seen drug deals. We've seen all kinds of activities, illegal activities," said a neighboring business owner, who asked to remain anonymous fearing retaliation. He said it's the last place he would send a family.
KIRO 7 also spoke with some prostitutes who make their living on Aurora Avenue.
One, named Van, said when she stayed there, managers at Everspring took a cut of illegal activities. She said they'd look the other way for all sorts of illegal activity, "Tons, everything, as long as you slip 20 bucks."
Another working girl named Antoinette said many of the people there are "selling drugs and prostituting."
She said she'd also stayed there before, and at checkout time, the manager would encourage her to get back out on the street and hustle for another night's stay.
"My phone would ring at 9:59," she said, "and it wasn't like I could just kick it. He would say, 'Go out there and get me some money.'"
The YWCA insists its workers have never seen or heard of any of those problems. They inspect the properties where the vouchers are used, and they say no homeless clients have complained to them about illegal activity.
Patricia Hayden said they also checked with Seattle police and "The police said there was no illegal activity that had been charged at the hotel."
When KIRO 7 checked with the Seattle Police Department, they said that was correct. They characterized Everspring as "cooperative" with police in that precinct.
They note that there are long-standing problems with prostitution and drugs on Aurora as a whole.
Jay Fisher, a manager at the nearby Columbus Motor Inn, agrees there’s all sorts of unsavory activity going on at hotels nearby.
He struggles to keep it away from his hotel but said the Everspring is the worst.
"They rent to a different type of people than we do,” said Fisher.
Regardless of whether Everspring management knows about drugs or tricks turned in their rooms, there is no denying that Pawar is a part owner and that he profits from taxpayer money.
The city started its hotel voucher program last year and has spent more than $600,000 since then. There are only five hotels approved for the program, including Everspring Inn.
The YWCA says there are no plans to scrap Everspring from the list of voucher hotels or prevent Pawar from receiving taxpayer money.
Patricia Harden says their charge is to serve the homeless, and that is their priority.
"They could die, it's just that serious" she said of the homeless people they help. "People living outside, it's a dangerous situation, particularly families with small children. It could be life or death."