Glendale Prostitution Sting Has Fringe Benefits
The two women that Mike Gross had ordered from Craigslist were running late, and he suspected they might not show, so he found two more in the back of Westword. But the second duo's phone number led him right back to the first pair he'd called, one of whom proceeded to yell at him for the transgression. Still, the women agreed to meet Gross in his room at the Staybridge Suites Hotel in Glendale.
"Hiiii there," Tatiana said when she arrived, her partner, Mia, standing quietly by her side. "How are you?"
"How are you?" replied Gross, the undercover john in this May 18 prostitution sting.
"You look kinda scary," Tatiana said, according to a recorded transcript.
"Please," Gross said. "I've never had anybody call me up on the phone and yell at me before."
"Well, yeah, that's me. I like to yell at people," she said. "Did I scare you? Come on."
"I'm a little scared. There's two of you and one of me."
"It's okay. We like to team up on guys. It's good to get abused every now and then. Don't you know that? Okay, I'm going to check your room real quick — okay, security! Security! Just making sure you're not Mr. Poliiiice Man."
"Why, do I look like the police?"
"Yes, you do, actually, to tell you the truth," Tatiana said.
"'Cuz you do."
"Why? 'Cuz I'm white?" Gross asked.
"You've got that look in your eye."
"Why, 'cuz I'm that brown-haired white guy?"
"You've got that look, that asshole look in your eye. I see you got condoms all over. Why is that? Are you just excited, or do you think you're going to use all these? No. You're only using one, so pick what color," Tatiana said. "You're not that big, are you?"
"Yeah, we'll rule those out," she said. "Nice try, though."
"Sooooo..." Gross said.
"So it's simple," Tatiana said. "We'll start off with a massage. Lay your butt down."
Check out this slide show of mug shots from the Glendale sting, these transcripts of audio recorded during two busts, and a glossary of industry terms to guide the uninitiated through the world of prostitution.
According to the report Gross would later file, "Tatiana directed me to remove the towel that I was wearing and lay down on the bed for my massage. Tatiana and Mia both began massaging my back, buttocks and legs." Later, Gross asked for his turn to massage them, and they took off their shirts and lay on the bed. While he massaged them, the women talked about a porno playing on the TV.
"That is huge."
"Oh, yeah." [Both laugh.]
"She's trying to deep-throat that motherfucker, huh?"
"Uh, she can't."
"Wow, that's huge."
"Look, and she uses both hands."
"It's like a Chipotle burrito."
The conversation continued until Gross asked when he would get to see the two women together. "Soon soon soon," Tatiana said. "But first we're gonna play with you."
At this point, Lieutenant Gross of the Glendale Police Department would later write in his report, "both Tatiana and Mia grabbed my penis and Tatiana began placing a condom on my penis while Mia held it."
The recording stops shortly after that, before other officers entered the room and arrested Tatiana and Mia. They were among nine women and one man (a female officer busted the man) picked up as part of the operation, dubbed the "Father's Day Special." The sting and the Glendale Police Department's handling of it are now under investigation by the Arapahoe County District Attorney's Office, although that office won't discuss specifics.
Gross began the operation with a sexy and petite Asian, who, for $300 an hour, offered the "Ultimate Girlfriend Experience," according to police records.
Also that day, Gross called 21-year-old "Honey," who told him she could be his for $125. Gross said he was prepared to offer $150. Honey promised to make it worth his while. According to Gross's report, Honey arrived in the room and then asked for her "donation." After he paid, she disrobed and seated Gross on the bed, removed his towel and placed her hand on his penis. Honey's three rules were no kissing, always wear a condom, and no "Greek" (anal sex). He agreed and gave the arrest signal.
Gross also called on Marie, a Native American woman whose Craigslist resumé included full service, French, hand jobs, deep French kissing, "dinner at the Y" (cunnilingus) and the "girlfriend" or "porn star" experience. According to his report, Marie removed his towel and reached for his penis, but he pulled back.
Gross ordered another tag team that evening, Heavenly and Dallas. Having sex with them was like having sex with Liza Minnelli and Bette Midler — "not for everyone, but worth the ride" — according to a former customer who reviewed the duo on a hooker messenger board that Gross reviewed before the sting.
He also arranged a $200 date with a Chinese woman who spoke enough English to tell Gross that he could have sex with her only once. "I then asked her, using hand signals, if she would perform oral sex on me, and she again nodded yes," Gross wrote in his report, adding that she proceeded to "slap" his penis.
It all seemed a little over-the-top to Frank Moya, a defense attorney for one of the alleged prostitutes who read Gross's report and thought that some of his actions before the arrests were inappropriate for a police investigation. Moya believed he might be able to get his case thrown out on the basis of "outrageous government conduct," and requested more police documents surrounding the sting. But after Moya asked for information, he discovered that some of the notes from the investigation had been destroyed and that the original audiotape was missing.
"When you boil this thing down, what it amounts to is that Glendale police decide they don't have enough crime in their city, so they hatch a plot to lure some people from out of town, people they hope are prostitutes, so they can bust them," Moya says. "Then at least one of the cops has sexual contact with a batch of them before arrests are made. Finally, a couple of these officers decide to deep-six the evidence of the cop's own sexcapade and call this standard operating procedure."
Gross, who was recently promoted to captain and serves as the department spokesman, has been an undercover john before, including a role in a 2006 federal investigation. Although he's hesitant to talk about the Father's Day Special because of the Arapahoe County investigation, he insists the sting was handled by the book. "As soon as someone touches you [on the genitals], then it's done; the operation for that person is over," he says. "It's completely common. Everybody does it — Arapahoe County, Denver, Aurora."
Representatives of the Denver, Aurora and Lakewood police departments refused to comment on their guidelines concerning officer conduct in undercover prostitution stings, claiming the release of such information could compromise the safety of their officers and future investigations.
Glendale police chief Victor Ross won't outline specifics, either, but says, "It can't result in any sexual gratification.... To go into an undercover operation and not take into consideration that someone's genitalia may get touched is probably naive at best, and unsafe at worst. It's not standard protocol, but it's kind of like saying, 'Is shooting someone standard?' It's not standard, but it has to be accounted for, and there needs to be a plan of action if it does occur. The plan is to give the bust signal as quick as you can and then get the other officers in there and document that it happened."
But Ralph Rojas, a criminology professor at Metropolitan State College of Denver, calls an officer getting naked and having his genitalia touched "misconduct."
"If you get undressed, that's improper, and someone is sanctioning this," he says. "Somebody's head is going to roll, because that's not the way you conduct an operation. Conversation is one thing, but when you get undressed and you have a woman touch you, that is something else, especially your genitals for the purpose of the sting operation."
Records show that the Father's Day Special prompted questions back at the Glendale police station as well. Detective Cory Lambert was in charge of compiling the reports related to the sting. While doing so, he came across three pages of notes taken by Detective Roy Martin, who had monitored the listening device during the sting. Included in Martin's notes, Lambert found the words "began oral stimulation."
Later that day, according to Lambert's report, Gross confronted Martin about the notation, asking him, "What the hell is this 'began oral stimulation'? I'm not going to get up on the stand and explain this."
Gross didn't include the notation in his report, according to a signed statement he would later write for the Arapahoe County District Attorney's Office.
In August, Roy Martin was promoted to sergeant, and Lambert took over Martin's one remaining drug case, which happened to stem from the Father's Day Special: One of the prostitutes had been found with 1.6 grams of methamphetamine.
Because the woman had struck a deal with police to become an informant in order to avoid prosecution, the Glendale Police Department was supposed to have forwarded the case to the South Metro Drug Task Force. But the agency never received it, according to a statement by Lambert, who re-filed the case so that the woman would face charges.
In an affidavit he included with the refiled case, Lambert also discussed his disagreement with Gross over whether Martin's notes, including the "began oral stimulation" notation, should have been included. He wrote that Gross had told him the notes shouldn't be considered evidence, despite Lambert's and another officer's claim that they were.
"The hero in this story is Detective Lambert," Moya says. "It's clear from review of these reports that he's a policeman with integrity and balls the size of grapefruits. Can you imagine this detective sitting across from two police officers who were his superiors, and in effect being told to hide evidence, and simply telling them straight up to their faces that he wouldn't? That's courage, in my book."
The Arapahoe County District Attorney's Office asked Gross, Lambert and Martin each to file a supplemental report to address the issue of the missing notes.
In his supplemental report, Lambert wrote that Martin told him that Martin and Gross believed the audio recordings were not evidence, but were only made for "officer safety." (The recordings, which had been misfiled, were eventually found.) Lambert also wrote that he asked Martin about the handwritten notes and that Martin said he didn't know what Gross was going to do with them.
"This isn't a felony case, it's a misdemeanor," Lambert quoted Gross as saying while he shook the three pages of notes. "I don't think we need these for evidence. I don't take my field notes from a traffic stop and put them into evidence."
Gross then discarded the notes, according to his own sworn statement.
Gross and Martin wrote in their signed statements that they couldn't explain the "began oral stimulation" notation, which was in the margin of the notes. And neither officer could recall the specific instance that would have sparked the notation. Both added that they were even uncertain as to which woman was in the room with Gross when Martin wrote it.
Gross also made the argument that notes from misdemeanors aren't filed. "As placing these notes into evidence would be a break from our normal procedure, considering the offense and based on what other jurisdictions have told us regarding their handling of notes," he wrote, "the three pieces of yellow paper containing Det. Martin's handwritten notes were discarded."
Moya doesn't believe the destruction of notes from a prostitution sting should be police procedure. But the fiasco surely helped his client receive what he considers an "unusually generous" deal, a deferred prosecution, which means that the charges will disappear if she doesn't break any laws for six months. Two others received deferred judgments, two were issued warrants for failing to appear in court, two had their cases refiled in other courts, and the other three have hearings scheduled.
As for Moya's complaint that the women were unnecessarily lured into Glendale and subjected to police misconduct, Chief Ross, who has 22 officers working for him (nine of whom were involved in the May sting), says they look for girls who advertise that they work in Glendale or southeast Denver. He also says that his officers know what they can and can't do in such a bust. Prostitution in Glendale is "no better or no worse than any other community in the metro area," he adds.
But a review of Westword ads from that week shows that none of the women refer to Glendale. And a recent review of Craigslist ads also turned up no mention of Glendale.
"It's not where they live; it's that you're trying to get that act out of your area, and I'm not naive enough to believe that one prostitution sting or two is going to rid the area of the world's oldest profession," Ross says.
The Arapahoe County District Attorney's Office won't say when its investigation would conclude, only that it will probably be soon.
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