By SDCN Editor
San Diego, CA–A former San Diego Police Department vice detective and his co-defendants each pleaded guilty Tuesday in court in connection with their operation of five illicit massage businesses in California and Arizona that profited for years by exploiting women to engage in commercial sexual services under the guise of offering therapeutic massage services.
According to court documents, Peter Griffin, 78, who left the department in 2002, Kyung Sook Hernandez, 58, Yu Hong Tan, 56, and Yoo Jin Ott, 46, owned and operated Genie Oriental Spa, Felicita Spa, Blue Green Spa, Maple Spa and Massage W Spa, located in the greater San Diego area and in Tempe, Arizona, between 2013 and August 2022. The criminal scheme included incorporating their businesses with state agencies, managing the finances of the businesses, advertising commercial sexual services online, recruiting and employing women to perform commercial sexual services in the businesses, and benefiting financially from the illegal enterprises. The defendants leased multiple commercial properties as storefronts, leased and bought residential properties to use as housing for employees, and secured credit card processing equipment to operate the illicit massage businesses.
Griffin previously worked as a detective with the Vice Operations Unit of the San Diego Police Department, a unit tasked with dismantling the very businesses he operated and promoted for personal profit. Throughout the course of the scheme, Griffin used the experience and skills he acquired through his work as a vice detective – and in at least one instance, his badge – to help the businesses evade law enforcement, thwart regulatory inspections, investigations, and any official action against the businesses, conceal evidence, and maintain a façade of legitimacy. On another occasion, Griffin told an employee that he was a former police officer and instructed her not to “open [her] mouth” about her employment at the illicit massage business. Griffin also used resources he had access to by virtue of his private investigator license to obtain information on customers and employees on behalf of the illicit massage businesses. During the scheme, the defendants encouraged and expected employees to perform commercial sexual services inside the businesses and relied on Griffin’s law enforcement background to help conceal the criminal conduct. When one employee initially refused to perform commercial sexual services, one of the defendants instructed her to “leave [her] morals in China” in order to “make the customers happy.”
“The defendant – a former vice detective who once took an oath to uphold our laws – knew more than most that illicit massage businesses cruelly profit by exploiting women for commercial sex,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “We are committed to prosecuting the proprietors of these illegal businesses, and to shining a light on those places where sexual exploitation and trafficking persist.”
“Peter Griffin misused the expertise acquired during his time as a vice detective and abused the respect that came with his badge – all to ensure that his ‘massage parlors’ operated under the radar for his personal financial gain,” said Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite, Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. “The guilty pleas of Griffin and his co-defendants underscore the Justice Department’s commitment to holding accountable those who profit from crime, particularly crimes that involve the exploitation of vulnerable populations and the abuse of trust that communities place in law enforcement.”
Griffin pleaded guilty to conspiring to violate the Interstate Travel in Aid of Racketeering Act (ITAR) by using facilities in interstate commerce to promote and facilitate businesses involving prostitution, and to wire fraud conspiracy and money laundering, for which he faces a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison. Hernandez, Tan, and Ott, who managed the different illicit massage businesses in Griffin’s network, each pleaded guilty to misprision of a felony and face maximum penalties of three years in prison.