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Feds seize Tukwila motels, detail criminal activities that led to raids
Federal agents seized three troubled motels Tuesday morning on Tukwila International Boulevard during a massive raid by hundreds of local and federal law-enforcement personnel.
Four people, including three who owned and operated the motels, were arrested Tuesday, following a year-long investigation of ongoing criminal activity at the motels.
They were to make initial court appearances Tuesday.
The investigation involving the motels – Great Bear Motor Inn, Boulevard Motel and Travelers Choice Motel – was outlined in federal documents and by officials at a press conference early Tuesday afternoon at the Tukwila Community Center.
In 2011 and in 2012 the three motels accounted for 17 percent of all police calls in Tukwila, including rape, robbery assault, drug transactions, gun crimes and prostitution.
“Today we seek to hold the hotel owners accountable for their crimes, strip them of their criminal dens and make this area of the community safer,” said U.S. Attorney Jenny A. Durkan, who joined Tukwila Mayor Jim Haggerton and Assistant Police Chief Bruce Linton at the press conference.
The investigation of the motels was led by the Tukwila Police Department and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).
Undercover officers and people working with law enforcement were used in the investigation, according to the documents filed for federal forfeiture.
The property owners and managers charged a $10 entry fee to a room where drugs were sold or sexual services offered, according to the documents.
The owner or manager would collect additional rental fees from the drug dealer or sex worker, depending on how many customers they had in a day.
At the press conference Durkan estimated the profits for the motel owners were in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
"You have seen in the last number of years that local police and federal agencies seek not just to prosecute crimes but to solve problems in their community," Durkan said. "We will prosecute criminal conduct. We will also seek to strip the profits from criminals as well as their criminal enterprises and we will work to make every community a safer and better place."
Federal officials will send letters to other motels in the immediate area to given them an opportunity "to clean up their acts," she said.
Haggerton, who called himself an "exceptionally proud mayor," thanked the local, state and federal agencies and city workers who participated in serving the warrants.
Before police arrived, city transportation workers had set up work cones to direct traffic on the boulevard away from the three motels, basically setting up a work zone that wouldn't attract suspicion.
"The city has invested a lot of effort and resources improving this neighborhood and with today's public safety action we have definitely turned the corner," Haggerton said.
The federal seizure also supports the city's efforts to improve the boulevard by purchasing properties in the immediate area, he said.
The city has been working to purchase properties along the area, but those efforts were not part of the police action Tuesday, he said.