Java Juggs owner pleads guilty in prostitution case

EVERETT — A Snohomish woman admitted Tuesday that she operated drive-through brothels out of her bikini espresso stands and laundered the hefty profits to conceal her crimes.

Carmela Panico was in Snohomish County Superior Court to answer to allegations that her coffee huts, Java Juggs and Twin Peaks, were prostitution operations that made her millions. In an agreement reached before the hearing, Panico pleaded guilty to second-degree promoting prostitution and money laundering, both felonies.

In exchange, the former exotic dancer will surrender her claims to the nearly $250,000 Everett police seized from her home in 2013. Panico also agreed to walk away from her coffee businesses, turning her five Snohomish County stands over to the city of Everett. She also promised not to operate any new coffee huts in the county.

Panico, 52, also must provide “testimony against others who were involved in her criminal activities.” That could mean she will testify against Darrell O’Neill, a former Snohomish County sheriff’s sergeant accused of helping Panico avoid detection by police. O’Neill allegedly was given sex in exchange for his help. Panico admitted on Tuesday that she personally provided sexual favors to the former sergeant.

O’Neill’s trial is scheduled to begin in November.

Snohomish County deputy prosecutor Bob Hendrix plans to recommend that Panico be sentenced to two days in jail and be given credit for two days already served. She is scheduled to be sentenced in March and faces up to a year in jail.

After Tuesday’s hearing, surrounded by television cameras, Panico shook hands with Everett police investigators. She declined to speak with reporters.

Detectives say that before Panico went into the coffee business, she was connected to Talents West, a company owned by Frank Colacurcio and his son. The Colacurcios ran multiple strip clubs, including Honey’s in Lynnwood. The Colacurcios were forced to shut down their nightclubs as part of federal organized-crime prosecution.

Court papers say FBI agents agreed to help with the investigation into Panico’s stands because of her past.

Panico, a college graduate, opened Java Juggs in 2008 and operated as many as eight stands, mainly along Highway 99. She preferred to hire women with previous “dancer” or “escort” experience. Her stand in Edmonds included a “stripper pole.”

Baristas were expected to make a certain amount of money during their shifts. They kept what was left over. The women engaged in sex shows and prostitution to earn bigger tips. Baristas told investigators that Panico knew about the illegal activity and at times encouraged it.

She discouraged her employees from calling police to report customers who engaged in lewd behavior. She said the “customers paid more to be allowed to do this and that it was allowed at her stands,” Hendrix wrote in court documents.

Some of the baristas reported earning hundreds of thousands of dollars. One baristas told detectives she made $500,000 working for Panico.

Investigators dug deep into Panico’s finances. They learned that she had deposited more than $2 million in her bank accounts over a period of about three years. She purchased multiple espresso stands, often with cash. Detectives alleged that Panico used proceeds from criminal activity to finance a “lavish lifestyle” that included expensive hobbies, including horses and boats. She also paid for several plastic surgeries, court papers said.

Investigators say the profit margin at the Java Juggs stands at times was twice that of well-run, established coffee huts.

Panico was arrested in the past for lewd conduct at her Edmonds stand. Her businesses came under scrutiny again when Kent police launched an investigation into sexually explicit shows at her Twin Peaks stand there.

It was during that investigation that police were told about a “dirty cop.” Everett police began investigating O’Neill’s alleged involvement and the nature of Panico’s businesses.

Both were arrested last year after raids at the stands. Since then, Panico has sold off a couple of coffee huts and leased others. She sold her Snohomish home in February.

The city of Everett is expected to give Panico a month’s notice when they plan to take possession of the stands. Panico agreed to “terminate all leases or other entanglements” and prepare the huts to be seized.

The city hasn’t finalized what will happen to the stands.

“We are currently exploring our available options, and will likely sell the stands, but not for operation at their current location,” city spokeswoman Meghan Pembroke said. “Under no circumstances will the city go into the coffee business at these locations, either as operators or landlords.”

Everett leaders also are developing new legislation to address some of the associated crimes that have turned up at bikini coffee stands such as Panico’s, she said.

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

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Local News

A view of one of the potential locations of the new Aquasox stadium on Monday, Feb. 26, 2024 in Everett, Washington. The site sits between Hewitt Avenue, Broadway, Pacific Avenue and the railroad. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
20 businesses could be demolished for downtown Everett stadium

Some business owners say the city didn’t tell them of plans for a new AquaSox stadium that could displace their businesses.

Kathy Purviance-Snow poses for a photo in her computer lab at Snohomish High School on Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2024, in Snohomish, WA. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
To ban or embrace ChatGPT? Local teachers fight AI with AI — or don’t

“It has fundamentally changed my teaching in really stressful and exciting ways,” an EvCC teacher said. At all levels of education, ChatGPT poses a tricky question.

In this Feb. 5, 2018, file photo a Boeing 737 MAX 7 is displayed during a debut for employees and media of the new jet in Renton, Wash. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)
FAA gives Boeing 90 days to develop plan to fix quality, safety issues

The agency’s ultimatum comes a day after a meeting with CEO Dave Calhoun and other top Boeing officials in Washington, D.C.

Two troopers place a photo of slain Washington State Patrol trooper Chris Gadd outside WSP District 7 Headquarters about twelve hours after Gadd was struck and killed in a collision on southbound I-5 about a mile from the headquarters on Saturday, March 2, 2024, in Marysville, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
State trooper killed, 1 arrested in crash on I-5 near Marysville

Authorities said Trooper Chris Gadd had been stopped along the freeway around 3 a.m. near 136th Street NE. A Lynnwood driver, 32, was arrested.

A man walks by Pfizer headquarters, Friday, Feb. 5, 2021, in New York. Pfizer will spend about $43 billion to buy Seagen and broaden its reach into cancer treatments, the pharmaceutical giant said. (AP Photo / Mark Lennihan, File)
Pfizer backs out of Everett manufacturing plant after $43B Seagen deal

Pfizer finalized the acquisition of the Bothell-based cancer drug developer in December.

Madi Humphries, 9, Rose Austin, 13, and Eirene Ritting, 8, on Thursday, Jan. 25, 2024 in Bothell, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
No grades, no teachers: Inside a Bothell school run by student vote

Each day at The Clearwater School, 60 students choose their own lessons. It’s one vote per person, whether you’re staff or student.

SonShine Preschool inside First Baptist Church Monroe is pictured Friday, March 1, 2024, in Monroe, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
SonShine preschool in Monroe to close at the end of the year

The preschool, operated by First Baptist Church, served kids for 25 years. School leadership did not explain the reason behind the closure.

Providence Hospital in Everett at sunset Monday night on December 11, 2017. Officials Providence St. Joseph Health Ascension Health reportedly are discussing a merger that would create a chain of hospitals, including Providence Regional Medical Center Everett, plus clinics and medical care centers in 26 states spanning both coasts. (Kevin Clark / The Daily Herald)
Following lawsuit, Providence commits to improved care for Deaf patients

Three patients from Snohomish County sued Providence in 2022 for alleged Americans with Disabilities Act violations.

Cars drive through snow along I-5 in Snohomish County, Washington on Thursday, Jan. 11, 2024.  (Annie Barker / The Herald)
In March, 7 p.m. sunsets are back for Western Washington

Washingtonians will finally start seeing more sun starting March 10. But a little more winter could be on the way first.

One of the parking lots at Stevens Pass Thursday afternoon on December 30, 2021.  (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Stevens Pass to charge $20 for parking reservations on busy days

Two-thirds of spaces will remain free for early arrivers on weekends. Cars with four or more occupants can also park free.

Lynnwood
Days after shootout with Lynnwood police, suspect checks into hospital

Police learned the 18-year-old was in a hospital in Portland, Oregon. His alleged role in the shooting remained unclear.

Everett
Snohomish County pharmacy tech accused of stealing 2,500 opioid pills

Rachel Langdon stole oxycodone while working at a Snohomish County pharmacy, according to state Department of Health allegations.

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.