Coffee stand owner accused of sexual exploitation

EVERETT — The owner of several Everett bikini barista stands was arrested Wednesday for investigation of sexual exploitation of a minor.

Baristas at two stands, including a 16-year-old girl, reportedly were giving customers sexy shows for tips, a violation of city adult-entertainment codes. During the shows, they allegedly revealed their private areas to undercover cops.

Police allege the activity occurred at two Grab-N-Go espresso stands at 2030 Broadway and 333 SE Everett Mall.

The owner, Bill Dwayne Wheeler Jr., 29, of Everett, was booked into the Snohomish County Jail just before 2 p.m. Wednesday. Wheeler reportedly kept tabs on the baristas inside the stands using surveillance video and his cellphone, according to police reports.

The baristas told detectives they weren’t paid wages for working in the stands, only tips.

Another man involved in the business also was arrested Wednesday for investigation of sexual exploitation of a minor, Everett police officer Aaron Snell said. The second man, 27, later was released pending further investigation. He’s described by police as a co-owner of one stand.

Police last month arrested four baristas in the case, city officials said. The baristas, in their teens and 20s, all were released while the investigation continues.

Police invested about eight hours of undercover work over a six-week period, according to a statement the city released about the case.

The case was called “Operation Show Stopper.”

The sexy shows reportedly could be seen by drivers, passersby and children at a local school, the statement says. The city also had concerns about loitering and lewd conduct by customers.

The baristas are accused of misdemeanor-level offenses.

City prosecutors still are reviewing the case against the baristas, city spokeswoman Kate Reardon said Wednesday evening. Those decisions are expected to happen soon.

One of the baristas was issued a criminal citation by Everett police, Reardon said. The woman was arraigned Wednesday morning on four counts of violating adult-entertainment codes and three counts of lewd conduct. She pleaded not guilty.

Police were back at the stands Wednesday afternoon, Snell said. They obtained a judge’s permission to search both properties for potential evidence.

Sexual exploitation of a minor is a felony under state law.

Wheeler has denied any wrongdoing. He is the son of Bill Wheeler, who went missing in 2010. The Wheeler family was at the center of a 2009 prostitution investigation involving baristas performing lewd acts at espresso stands.

Bill Wheeler never was found.

There was no evidence of prostitution activity at the stands in the recent investigation, according to police.

The shows allegedly cost $10 to $20.

In a statement to police, one of the baristas, 29, wrote that she was trying to pay off bills and that she regretted what happened.

She wrote: “Biggest mistake of my life. :(“

Rikki King: 425-339-3449; rking@heraldnet.com.

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