Bikini barista stand manager pleads guilty to promoting prostitution

EVERETT — A bikini espresso stand veteran admitted Wednesday that she helped her boss rake in millions by selling sex at roadside coffee huts.

Samantha Lancaster also has agreed to testify against former Snohomish County sheriff’s sergeant Darrell O’Neill, who is accused of turning a blind eye to the prostitution operation. Prosecutors allege that O’Neill provided information about undercover police stings in exchange for sexual favors with Lancaster and stand owner Carmela Panico.

O’Neill’s trial is scheduled for July.

Lancaster, 24, faces up to eight months in jail when she is sentenced later this year. She pleaded guilty to two counts of second-degree promoting prostitution, a felony.

Lancaster managed the stands for Panico. She is a veteran in the business and was caught up in Everett’s first coffee stand scandal.

In 2009, Lancaster, then 18, was working for Bill Wheeler Sr. at a Grab-N-Go espresso stand. Wheeler’s stands made national headlines after Everett cops revealed that baristas were exposing themselves to customers in exchange for money.

Lancaster and her fellow baristas never saw any jail time in connection with that case. Instead, they were warned to keep clean or face a criminal conviction. Lancaster went on to manage Panico’s stands.

Panico, a former exotic dancer, pleaded guilty last year to promoting prostitution out of Java Juggs and Twin Peaks and laundering the proceeds. She, too, is expected to testify against O’Neill.

The espresso madam was arrested in 2013 as part of an investigation into police corruption. Everett detectives and the FBI began tailing O’Neill after police heard from some of Panico’s baristas that there was a “dirty cop” supplying their boss with confidential information.

Baristas told detectives that they were earning hundreds of thousands of dollars providing sexually explicit shows at the stands. Some of the baristas also were engaged in prostitution at the stands and away from the coffee huts.

They also told detectives that Panico could be vindictive, fining them if they didn’t wear high heels and blackmailing them if they didn’t put enough money in the register.

Some told investigators that they were afraid of Panico because of her ties to the Colacurcio family. For years, the Seattle family operated Talents West, a sex-oriented entertainment business, which included strip clubs.

Facing criminal charges, Panico walked away from her stands last year and leased three of them to Lancaster. The city of Everett later ordered Lancaster to vacate the coffee shacks. The city attorney alleged that Lancaster and her employees continued to engage in illegal conduct. She abandoned the stands.

Panico is forbidden from opening up any other coffee businesses in Snohomish County.

Diana Hefley: 425-339-3463; hefley@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @dianahefley.

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