The former owner of a crime-plagued Tukwila motel was sentenced Tuesday to one year in prison for allowing the property to become a haven for drug dealing and prostitution.
Kulwinder “Chris” Saroya, of SeaTac, pleaded guilty in October to conspiracy to maintain drug-involved premises. In his plea agreement, Saroya, 42, admitted he and his brother, co-defendant Jaspal Singh, profited from drug dealing they allowed at the Travelers Choice Motel and Great Bear Motor Inn.
The motels were two of three Tukwila motels federal law-enforcement agents raided last summer and ultimately seized after police said the owners had arranged drug deals and that front-desk clerks had charged visitors a fee to direct them to the rooms of tenants who were selling drugs or sex. The third was the Boulevard Motel.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office said Saroya would collect or would direct staff members to collect a $10 entry fee for people who came to the motel seeking drugs or sexual services. He would take the money and direct the customers to rooms to purchase drugs or sex.
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According to court documents, Saroya told police in 2010 that “normal people will not come to [his] hotel so [he has] to do business with crackheads and prostitutes to make money.”
Tukwila police said the owners of the three motels rejected numerous efforts to clean up the properties.
A federal complaint alleged that there were 223 calls for police service to the 27-room Boulevard Motel between July 1, 2012, and June 20, 2013.
Lakhvir Pawar, the manager of the Boulevard Motel, also pleaded guilty in October to maintaining a drug-involved premises. Under the terms of his plea agreement, Pawar, 41, of Burien, forfeited his interest in the motel and about $90,000 seized in August when the motel and the two others were raided and shut down by federal authorities.
Pawar and Singh, who also pleaded guilty in October, are scheduled to be sentenced next month.
The federal lawsuit alleged the “owners of the properties are engaged in, encouraging and making significant cash profits from criminal activity at the Target Motels.” It claimed the owners were involved in money laundering and a series of complex business transactions apparently designed to hide ownership of the businesses.
Saroya and Singh forfeited the two motels, the family home in SeaTac, more than $265,000 seized from their home and bank accounts and a 2007 Mercedes-Benz, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.
U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkan and Tukwila Police Chief Mike Villa told a news conference Tuesday that in the six months after the seizure, service calls to police from the neighborhood fell 28 percent, violent crime dropped 49 percent and robberies across the city were down 18 percent over the same period the previous year. Authorities haven’t seen evidence that the crime was simply displaced to other communities, they said.
Information from The Associated Press and Seattle Times archives is included in this report.