TUKWILA, Wash., Aug. 28 (UPI) -- Federal agents and local police used a road repair operation as a cover for raids on three motels in Tukwila, a small city bordering Seattle.
The road crew ensured the area was shut down to traffic during Tuesday's raids, the Seattle Times reported. The motels were shut down and their owners arrested, along with some of their guests, officials said.
Investigators say the motels were basically criminal operations with the owners laundering money and desk clerks functioning as middlemen between prostitutes and drug dealers and their customers. The Tukwila Police Department said the three motels were responsible for one in six calls for police service with police visiting the 27-room Boulevard Motel 223 times between July 1, 2012 and June 20, 2013.
At a news conference, U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkan said in addition to criminal charges her office has filed an action for civil forfeiture.
Using a road crew to shut down Highway 99 allowed the hundreds of federal, state and local agents to "deploy quickly and safely," Tukwila Police Commander Eric Drever said. He said there were also welfare workers on hand to help people who lost their living quarters and even King County animal control officers in case pets were displaced.
Only four people face federal charges, including the three owners, authorities said. A number of other people were charged with state drug or prostitution offenses.