Seattle-area bikini coffee stand owner charged with prostitution

A Seattle-area business owner has been charged with promoting prostitution and money laundering, after allegedly using her baristas in a bikini coffee stand to sell sex acts.

Snohomish County prosecutors say Carmela Panico, a 52-year-old former nude dancer, banked more than $2 million in three years with her illicit business.

Her baristas made money mostly on tips, saying they could earn hundreds of thousands of dollars, authorities said. The women said they could make up to $14 for baring their breasts or genitals and charged more for sex acts, according to charging documents.

“Panico’s businesses were driven by prostitution and lewd behavior,” Snohomish County deputy prosecutor Bob Hendrix wrote in the documents. Panico was charged Thursday, the newspaper reported.

Panico’s attorney said she has left the coffee business.

Prosecutors allege she avoided paying full taxes on her earnings by dealing in large amounts of cash. Authorities seized nearly $250,000 in a raid on her home last year.

A veteran sheriff’s sergeant, Darrell O’Neill, has also been implicated in the affair. Officials claim he tipped off Panico and her workers to police scrutiny in exchange for sexual favors, KIRO reports.

Court documents say that Panico could deduct money if the women failed to wear high heels throughout their shifts, did not have a tan or failed to put on makeup.

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