Raids of three Tukwila, Wash., motels Tuesday morning involved hundreds of local police officers and federal agents. The three owners and a fourth person were arrested, suspected of being involved with drugs, prostitution, and money-laundering.
Authorities executed search-and-seizure warrants at all three locations at around 6:30 a.m., Tukwila Police Commander Eric Drever said, according to The Associated Press
. The raids came after agents spent a year gathering evidence on owners of the Boulevard Motel, the Travelers Choice Motel and the Great Bear Motor Inn.
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Officials said those three motels accounted for 17 percent of emergency calls in Tukwila in 2011 and 2012, according to documents filed in U.S. District Court.
About 400 officers and agents participated in the investigation, though not all attended Tuesday's raid, which began shortly after street crews set up traffic cones to make it look like road work had been scheduled to begin. Authorities said raids were also occurring at other unspecified locations, KOMO News reported
"Today we seek to hold the hotel owners accountable for their crimes, strip them of their criminal dens and make this area of the community safer," U.S. Attorney Jenny A. Durkan said in a statement.
In addition to crimes that included rape, robbery, and assault, police also found five dead bodies at the locations between 2009-13.
Footage from local television station KOMO showed police officers converging on the motels and leading away suspects in handcuffs. Investigators believe the motel owners allowed the premises to be used for using and selling illegal drugs and that they were able to "profit handsomely" from the illegal activity, according to the case file.
Court documents state that motel operators profited from looking the other way with regard to prostitution and drug sales, charging extra to people who came for that reason. According to an affidavit, owners and managers would get $10 from patrons who sought drugs or sex, then guide the customer to a specific room.
Citing witnesses, KOMO News said the owners would also receive a fee from the dealer or sex worker based on the number of customers each day.
"These businesses have been a haven for violence and gang activity for several years," ATF Acting Special Agent in Charge Jim Modzelewski told KOMO. "Today's operation should have a lasting positive impact on crime in Tukwila."
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