PHOENIX, AZ (September 8, 2011) – A six-month investigation by Phoenix Police has resulted in the arrest and indictment of 18 individuals connected to the Phoenix Goddess Temple, a suspected house of prostitution operating under the pretense of providing “religious” services. Search warrants were executed late yesterday on locations in Sedona and Phoenix with the cooperation and support of law enforcement officials from the Sedona Police Department and Yavapai County.
A press conference to discuss the operation will be held at 1:30pm today at Phoenix Police Department Headquarters, 620 W. Washington Street, Phoenix, AZ 85003.
Evidence gathered by undercover investigators indicates that male and female “practitioners” working at the Temple were in fact performing sexual acts in exchange for monetary “donations,” all under the guise of providing “Neo Tantric” healing therapies. Among the individuals arrested is Goddess Temple founder Tracy Elise, who was involved in a similar suspected brothel in Seattle that was shut down by law enforcement in 2009. She faces charges of prostitution, illegal control of an enterprise, pandering, and operating a house of prostitution. Others named in the indictment face charges including conspiracy, working in a house of prostitution and massaging without a license.
“Although it is not uncommon for criminals to hide their criminal acts from law enforcement, it is particularly disheartening that some would attempt to disguise their crimes as religious freedom,” said Acting Phoenix Police Chief, Joseph Yahner.
“The First Amendment protection of the free exercise of religion does not allow individuals to trade sex for money, no matter how the transaction is portrayed,” said Maricopa County Bill Montgomery, whose office will lead the prosecution of the individuals named in the indictment. “Thanks to the cooperative efforts of our law enforcement partners here in Phoenix and in Yavapai County, we are now in a position to hold these so-called healers accountable for allegedly running brothels in residential neighborhoods,” he added. Montgomery concluded by stating, “We will protect our community from the impact of criminal enterprises no matter how they may be characterized.”
Founded in 2008, the Phoenix Goddess Temple has been operating at 2728 North 24th Street in Phoenix since July 2009. The Sedona location has been operating at 2945 Southwest Drive since 2005. The indictments announced today are not evidence of guilt. All suspects are presumed innocent until proven guilty.