Judge returns property in brothel investigation

Colin Mulvany photo

Eight suspected brothels, including the Oriental Spa South at 515 S. Maple Ave., were raided across the Spokane area July 10, 2012, by a multi-agency law enforcement task force.

January 10, 2013 12:34 p.m. - Updated: January 11, 9:11 a.m.

A judge today ordered the return of thousands of dollars in cash, property and other items to two people arrested last summer after a raid of eight suspected brothels in the Spokane area.

Superior Court Judge James Triplet agreed with defense attorneys Mark Vovos and Carl Oreskovich that local, state and federal law enforcement agencies need to return the bank accounts, a home, a car and even a wedding ring seized from Yong C. Kassim, 62, and 68-year-old Chin S. Day.

Kassim and Day were arrested separately during a raid July 10 of eight suspected brothels by Airway Heights police and state and federal agents. The raids were part of an investigation into suspected prostitution activity at Northern Quest Casino and Resort.

Kassim was the owner of Joe Jean’s Oriental Health Spa at 2712 N. Division St. and Day was the co-owner of Oriental Spa North at 827 E. Francis Ave.

Vovos and Oreskovich argued that law enforcement arrested Kassim and Day on the charges of promoting prostitution and money laundering last July but have not filed any formal charges.

“The government doesn’t have the right to sit on it … and deny my client her right to the Fourth Amendment protection to be free of illegal search and seizure,” Oreskovich said. “We are asking the court to release the property seized on July 10.”

Deputy Spokane County Prosecutor John Grasso said he was bound, under state law, to keep quiet about the case.

“I am not able to make a comment. I can’t even discuss the procedure,” Grasso told Triplet. “This may not be the proper court to hear this motion.”

Superior Court Judge Kathleen O’Connor previously approved a law enforcement request to conduct a special inquiry, which is a rare form of investigation where law enforcement is allowed to conduct searches, seizures and investigations in secret prior to charging decisions.

Following the ruling today, Airway Heights Police Chief Lee Bennett said he lifted the special inquiry, triggering the release of hundreds of names of people whose credit card charges were on file at those businesses. The Spokesman-Review has obtained a copy of those records.

As for the criminal case, Vovos disagreed with Grasso’s contention that he couldn’t discuss the case.

“This allows them to go in and keep everything secret and take away the basic rights that everyone has,” Vovos said.

Triplet eventually sided with Vovos and Oreskovich on the Day and Kassim cases. He noted that several other search warrants in the file had been approved by another judge as part of the special inquiry.

“I’m not suggesting Mr. Grasso is being negligent. But I don’t have any evidence to show any property seized was lawfully seized,” Triplet said. “I am not ruling on any of those” other search warrants as part of the special inquiry.

In regard to Kassim and Day, however, “any property being held … will be returned,” the judge said. That property includes a home and bank and retirement accounts.

Note to readers:

The Spokesman-Review has obtained a document containing the names of hundreds of people whose credit card charges were on file at suspected brothels in the Spokane area but has chosen not to publish the names on its website or in Friday’s paper.

We’ve made this decision because none of the persons listed on the documents seized by authorities during last summer’s raid have been charged with any crime. The Spokesman-Review normally does not identify individuals in criminal matters unless they have been arrested, charged or identified as being under investigation.

Gary Graham, Editor
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