Scottsdale police raided a family-operated prostitution ring this week, arresting seven "central figures" and seizing more than $1 million in the culmination of a 2 1 /2-year investigation, officials said.
Touch of Class escort service was based in Scottsdale at 7505 E. Osborn Road and had another base in Tucson at 3233 W. Donovan, police said.
The Osborn office space also served as a call center, said Lt. Steve Gesell, commander of the special investigations section of the Scottsdale Police Department. Clients called the center, where operators dispatched prostitutes and drivers to the customers’ homes or to a hotel, Gesell said.
By all appearances, the prostitution ring operated as most businesses do, Gesell said.
There were employee meetings, office pools, bonuses and day care services.
"It’s downright diabolical," Gesell said. "They provided free child care so mothers can go prostitute themselves. It certainly nauseates me."
Since 1999, the business has brought in $6.5 million, he said.
As part of "Operation Outcall," police also issued 11 search warrants this week to seize materials and assets from locations in Scottsdale, Mesa, Phoenix, Peoria and Tucson.
Police arrested 62-year-old north Scottsdale resident Joseph K. Zahara, whom Gesell called the "CEO" of the operation, on suspicion of running a criminal enterprise.
They also arrested Zahara’s wife, Sheila Zahara, 58; his son, Robert Zahara, 31; his daughter-in-law, Renessa Zahara, 24; and Anthony Guerrero, 21, who police said was Renessa Zahara’s brother and the head of the Tucson enterprise.
Joseph Zahara’s business partner, Julian Carlicci, 47, and his girlfriend, Regina Durkin, 27 — both of Phoenix — also were arrested.
All seven were released with a promise to appear in court.
Police expect indictments for the Zaharas, Guerrero, Carlicci and Durkin, said Sgt. Mark Clark, the department’s spokesman. Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard has been working with Scottsdale police on the investigation, he said.
The seven also are suspected of racketeering and money laundering, Gesell said. Three of the seven also operated massage parlors in Scottsdale, Clark said.
Police expect to make more arrests in the case in the next few months while they continue to investigate, Gesell said, adding that police have names and information on about 50 employees of the operation.
A neighbor of the operation’s headquarters on Osborn Road said he suspected something was going on.
"Come on, I wasn’t born yesterday," said Steve Posso, owner of Sun Devil Trophy at 7465 E. Osborn Road. "There’s a bunch of traffic, gals coming and going with guys . . . There’s nobody walking up and down the street, but we knew something was going on."
Scottsdale Police Chief Alan Rodbell said he was "very, very proud" of the Scottsdale detectives who cracked the case, adding that the department wants "to send a very clear message out that we take criminal enterprises in our community very seriously."