by: KIRO 7 STAFF Updated:
TUKWILA, Wash. - Motels that have been problems for Tukwila police were raided Tuesday morning after a months-long investigation that authorities said uncovered prostitution and drugs.
More than 400 agents and officers were involved in the raids at three motels: the Boulevard Motel, the Travelers Choice Motel, and the Great Bear Motor Inn. Police focused on the 14400 block of Tukwila International Boulevard.
Federal agents arrested three men who own and manage the motels- Kulwinder “Chris” Saroya, Jaspal Singh, and Lakhvir “Larry” Pawar.
Investigators say not only did the men allow criminal activity in the motels, they profited from it.
U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkan explained how it worked. “It was basically a cover charge. If you wanted a certain kind of drug you could go to room 'x'. If you wanted a certain sexual activity, go to a different room and they would take a cut, “ said Durkan.
According to charging documents, a prostitute who used a room at the motel turned 40 tricks in a day. She made $3,000 and had to give the owners $500.
In 2011, Tukwila's crime rate was four times higher than the crime rate in King County and the State of Washington, and the city's violent crime rate was more than three times higher, according to federal court documents.
A significant portion of the crime took place in a two-block section of Tukwila International Boulevard.
In 2011 and 2012, authorities said about 17 percent of Tukwila police calls for service were to three motels: The Boulevard Motel, the Travelers Choice Motel and the Great Bear Motor Inn. Police responded there for rape, robbery, assault, gun crimes, prostitution and possession of stolen property, court documents show.
In those documents, authorities refer to them as the Target Motels.
"Since at least 2006, the Target Motels have consistently been among the top five motels in Tukwila with the highest calls for police service per room, and their ratio of calls is significantly higher than other hotels in Tukwila," wrote Joel Miller Jr., a special agent for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
The Boulevard, which has 27 rooms, had 223 calls for police service between July 1 and June 30, with an annual ratio of 7.96 calls for service per room, Miller wrote. The Travelers Choice and Great Bear also had unusually high numbers of police responses.
Shortly before the raids Tuesday morning, workers who closed lanes of State Route 99 served two purposes: to make room for all the federal agents, SWAT officers and police vehicles; and to make it appear that things weren't out of the ordinary.
Federal and local agents also raided the suspects’ homes. Kulwinder “Chris” Saroya and Jaspal Singh are brothers.
Their families live together in home in Sea-Tac. Tuesday night at the home, the suspect’s sister told KIRO 7 Eyewitness News reporter Alison Grande that she didn’t want to talk, and that she wasn’t sure why the men were arrested. Neighbors wondered how much other relatives really knew.
“Grandma and grandpa are out there watering the yard and the kids are running around. I feel sorry for them,” said neighbor Terry Tyge.
U.S. Marshals seized all three motels. They were boarded up by Wednesday morning, and could be auctioned off or sold to developers.
The men are in federal detention and have hearings later this week.
In total, 22 people were arrested.
Investigators were able to piece the case together with the help of several informants.
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