Former cop accused of misconduct with bikini baristas

EVERETT — A former Snohomish County sheriff’s sergeant was charged Wednesday with felony promoting prostitution and official misconduct for allegedly tipping off bikini baristas in exchange for sexual favors.

Sheriff’s Sgt. Darrell L. O’Neill, 58, reportedly warned baristas working for Java Juggs stands when their businesses were targeted by undercover officers, deputy prosecutor Janice Albert said in Superior Court papers.

Between April 2012 and his arrest in June, O’Neill repeatedly undercut the efforts of police investigating what appears to have been a highly-profitable sex-for-money business at the stands.

Among other things, O’Neill allegedly:

  • Warned stand workers and the owner about undercover officers and the vehicles they used;
  • Checked vehicle registrations more than 70 times by running license plate numbers and the names of stand workers, undercover and uniformed cops and an officer’s wife;
  • Repeatedly visited the stands, but never notified dispatch, “never wrote a citation for lewd conduct, never made an arrest and never filed a report on prostitution.”

Instead, O’Neill has admitted the stand worker engaged in sexually explicit shows for him and sometimes engaged him in sex acts, according to court papers.

“He paid for almost none of it,” Albert said. “Asked why they agreed to perform for him, the barista said they knew O’Neill was a dirty cop. They knew he would tell them when he recognized an undercover (officer) in the area which would permit them to continue giving shows and committing acts of prostitution.”

O’Neill was arrested after police in Everett, Edmonds, Lynnwood and Kent raided seven espresso stands. He retired the next month.

The criminal investigation found the Java Juggs stands hire young women who have worked as strippers and escorts and “essentially operate as drive-through strip clubs or brothels,” court papers say.

O’Neill, a deputy for 30 years, is now charged with felony second-degree promotion prostitution with aggravating factors of abuse of a position of trust and having engaged in a major economic offense. That opens the door for increased punishment upon conviction.

He’s also charged with two counts of official misconduct, gross misdemeanors alleging he intentionally refrained from his duty.

The investigation of the barista stands has attracted much attention because of its racy nature, but court papers make clear that the sharpest focus is on conspiracy to promote prostitution, money laundering and leading organized crime.

According to a search warrant in the case, a key figure in the investigation is Carmela Panico, 51, who is described as the owner of the Java Juggs coffee huts. She’s under investigation for promoting prostitution and permitting prostitution.

Detectives say the Snohomish-area woman had long ties to Talents West, a sex-oriented entertainment business that for years was operated by the Seattle-based Colacurcio crime family.

The Colacurcios formerly owned Honey’s north of Lynnwood, one of several nude nightclubs they operated in the region before being forced to close as part of a federal prosecution.

The FBI installed surveillance cameras near some of the stands. Video footage documents O’Neill repeatedly hugging and kissing the women, the search warrant said.

The cameras also reportedly filmed women workers exchanging sex for money from customers.

O’Neill joined the sheriff’s office in November 1982.

Eric Stevick: 425-339-3446; stevick@heraldnet.com.

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