He’s often a lonely guy looking for a lap dance, a massage, or sex. So he calls an escort. But instead of a friendly encounter, the woman’s 300-pound bodyguard — armed with anything from an AK-47 to a stun baton — kicks down the door and steals his cash.
Scenarios like this are unfolding as the escort business slowly creeps back into Chandler’s motels and homes, police say.
To combat it, Chandler’s organized crime unit has launched undercover stings targeting escorts operating illegally in the city, as well as the prostitution and strongarm robberies that can go along with the industry.
"We don’t want this activity in our city," said Chandler Sgt. Mark Franzen. "We want to get the message out to escort services that if they are going to operate, operate legally."
Escorts must apply for permits and carry identifica- tion cards issued by the city to do business legally. They also need separate permits if they want to advertise in the city.
Currently, no one is licensed to be an escort in Chandler.
"Any female who shows up in the city of Chandler in the capacity of an escort is going to get ticketed," said detective Mike Russo. Each citation is a class one misdemeanor carrying a $500 minimum fine.
On Friday, Chandler’s organized crime unit arrested four escorts and two "runners," or bodyguards, at a Chandler motel and a Phoenix home. The escorts were also arrested on suspicion of attempting to commit prostitution.
"The majority of these girls are basically prostitutes." Russo said. "A lot are mothers, from Chandler and Gilbert, who lost their jobs and thought this was a good way to make money. They were told it would be lingerie shows, but guys start throwing money at them and they start doing sex acts."
A recent rise in complaints by hotel staff or men claiming to have been robbed launched the operation in May.
The first sting netted three escorts and two bodyguards who were cited on violations of city codes. One escort was also cited on suspicion of prostitution.
The unit launched similar enforcement in 2000 when a large number of escorts started doing business in the city.
"A lot of times, girls will meet with guys in rooms. If the guy has a large amount of money he becomes easy prey," Russo said. "She basically gets the bodyguard over a cell phone, or girls sometimes have a listening device in their purse. He’ll kick (the door) in and rob him and take his money. It’s happened numerous times in the city."
Escorts are finding new ways to stay discreet, including using the Internet to establish contact with men and doing business from theirhomes.
"A lot of places are set up as brothels, with two or three girls in rooms and security to shake you down at the door," Russo said.