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Police arrest four men patronizing prostitutes at Kirkland’s Motel 6, execute Backpage.com search warrant

What began as routine patrol for Kirkland police on July 10, soon became a
What began as routine patrol for Kirkland police on July 10, soon became a 'John' bust after four men were arrested for patronizing a prostitute at Motel 6, a low-priced motel in Kirkland's Totem Lake neighborhood.
— image credit: Maddi Miller/Kirkland Reporter

Kirkland police officers sat in an undercover vehicle, watching a motel room of a supposed prostitute the night of July 10.

At 9:48 p.m., a 54-year-old Asian man with a green shirt left her room. He was soon arrested.

At 9:53 p.m., a heavy-set 53-year-old Asian man with a blue baseball cap entered her room and left about an hour later. He was also arrested.

At 11:12 p.m., a 30-year-old Hispanic man wearing all black went into the woman’s room and left after 10 minutes. He was arrested.

And at 11:34 p.m., a 33-year-old white man wearing a bright multicolored shirt entered the room of the supposed prostitute and left 20 minutes later. He, too, was arrested.

What began as routine patrol for Kirkland police one Wednesday night, soon became a “John” bust after the four men were arrested for patronizing a prostitute at Motel 6, a low-priced motel in Kirkland’s Totem Lake neighborhood.

“We’ve dealt with this for many years at Motel 6 and other motels,” said Lt. Mike Murray with the Kirkland Police Department, adding that the Baymont Inn and the Silver Cloud Inn have also been frequented by prostitutes. “This is an issue across, up and down the Eastside and Seattle.”

He said all types of crimes occur at Motel 6, ranging from teenagers who throw parties to prostitution, burglary and mail theft.

“When you don’t discriminate and will rent to anybody, you have to take your lumps with those checking in there,” Murray said. “It’s not a constant problem, but it happens, it pops up occasionally, and we have to deal with it.”

Kirkland police subsequently filed a search warrant with the King County Superior Court on July 23 for all information on Backpage.com that related to the supposed prostitute, who later admitted to advertising her services on the website. Backpage.com is known for promoting escorts, body rubs and strippers, to name a few.

According to search warrant documents, Kirkland police were tipped off by a concerned mother who said she was living at Motel 6 with her two children. The woman told police there were two women living in room 114 and she often saw men enter the room and exit a short time after.

“She was concerned for the safety of her children having that occur just across the courtyard from where they were staying,” search warrant documents state.

The documents said Officer Jeff D. Trombley, who was on duty that night, was patrolling Motel 6 due to “continual problems with violence, theft and prostitution.”

After the woman’s tip, Trombley obtained the alleged prostitutes’ names who were staying at the room from a motel employee. Documents say the motel employee was aware of prostitution problems at the motel.

After looking at Backpage.com, Trombley found a 22-year-old woman matching one of the women, who had an active Renton theft warrant.

Officers scouted the area, and with each arrest, the men admitted, post-Miranda, that they had paid $80, $120 and $200 for sex and/or oral sex.

Citation documents filed with the Kirkland Municipal Court show the 54-year-old man is from California, the 53-year-old man is from Kent, the 30-year-old man is from Redmond, and the 33-year-old man is from Kirkland.

Two men said they found the women on Backpage.com, while one said he discovered one of the women on TNABoard.com.

Officers finally approached the women’s room at 12:23 a.m. The 22-year-old was positively identified from her North Carolina driver’s license and the other was found to be a 32-year-old from Puyallup.

Search documents state both women admitted to being prostitutes and confirmed their monikers, “Avionne” and “Kim.”

“’Kim’ admitted, post-Miranda, to Officer Carlson that she had seen four or five customers on July 10,” the documents state. “[She] stated that she was not working with, or for, anyone. She stated she had no pimp.”

The women were jailed but have not yet been charged.

Crystal Faustino, a mother of two children who has been staying at the motel for about three months, said prostitution at Motel 6 is a “huge problem.”

“Usually there’s one or two girls. One will go out and a guy will go in. Then 15, 20 minutes later, the girl comes back and another guy comes in,” Faustino said. “My kids have even asked me why there’s so many men going in and out [of those rooms] and they’re 6-and-a-half and 8 years old.”

Faustino said she witnessed two black females in a room with similar circumstances. She said she alerted Motel 6 staff and believes they were “busted” shortly after.

But Faustino also said a woman running an escort service told her she could make $500 a night without having to have sex.

“She was basically trying to recruit me,” Faustino said. “ … This is Kirkland, this is generally a good, safe area.”

Faustino said the heavy police presence makes her and her children feel safer and she said that while motel management seems to be trying to combat the problem, she thinks they should be more aware of the situation.

Laura Rojo-Eddy, a Motel 6 spokeswoman, said the motel’s staff are trained to be observant of their environment and to contact local authorities should they observe any suspicious activity.

“Management at Motel 6 Kirkland maintains a positive working relationship with the Kirkland Police Department and will continue to work with them on an ongoing basis, alerting them of any suspicious activity, and to determine together what, if any, additional steps may be necessary to respond to any concerns,” Rojo-Eddy added.

Based on the evidence, the search warrant seeks all information for the Seattle postings, including billing information, methods of payment, copies of payments, credit card information, email communications, phone numbers, internet logs and IP address information.

Murray said Craigslist.com was once the place where “escorts” advertised their services but after the state attorney generals put a stop to that, prostitutes and pimps have simply found another web page to use.

“They’ll probably shut that down now and go to another one,” Murray said. “They’re more interested in looking at Backpage.com and human trafficking, which [the website] does.”

On July 24 the Washington Attorney General’s office announced Bob Ferguson recently joined a bi-partisan coalition of attorney generals across the country to help fight prostitution and sex trafficking by urging Congress to amend the Communications Decency Act.

The amendment would provide state and local prosecutors criminal jurisdiction when it comes to online crime, such as Backpage.com, which promotes and profits from human trafficking, according to the attorney general’s office.

The four suspects who were arrested for patronizing a prostitute are expected to be charged Tuesday morning at the Kirkland Municipal Court.

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