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Bikini Coffee Stand Owner Pleads Guilty to Prostitution Charges

By Daniel Taylor, Esq. on September 04, 2014 9:06 AM

The owner of five drive-thru coffee stands featuring bikini-clad female baristas has pleaded guilty to prostitution and money-laundering charges.

As part of her deal with prosecutors, Carmela Panico, the 52-year-old owner of espresso huts in Everett, Washington, agreed to cease operations and hand ownership of her coffee stands over to the city, reports The Daily Herald. Panico also agreed to testify against a former police officer who allegedly helped Panico avoid detection in exchange for sexual favors from Panico herself.

What do authorities say was going down at these coffee cathouses?

Baristas Engaged in Sex Shows, Prostitution

Bikini coffee stands have apparently become increasingly common in the Northwest, with the city of Everett in particular seeming to be a hotbed for hot coffee served by half-clothed women. But police say the women at Panico's stands, which include the aptly named Java Juggs and Twin Peaks, were offering a lot more than coffee with a side of eye candy.

The baristas reportedly engaged in sex shows and prostitution with customers to earn extra money. Baristas who worked at Panico's stands earned hundreds of thousands of dollars, with one barista telling police she earned $500,000, reports The Daily Herald.

The women said Panico knew about, and even encouraged, this ancillary income stream, using her own profits from the criminal enterprise to finance her lavish lifestyle and buy more coffee stands, often with cash.

Promoting Prostitution

While prostitution is certainly illegal in Washington state, it's also a felony to advance prostitution or to profit from it -- the charge Panico pleaded guilty to in her deal with prosecutors.

Panico also admitted to money laundering, which is also a felony under Washington state law.

In exchange for her cooperation in the upcoming trial of a former police sergeant who is accused of undercutting police investigation into the coffee stands in exchange for sexual favors, prosecutors are recommending that Panico be sentenced to two days in jail in addition to the two days she has already served.

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