A Tucson woman who ran a string of illicit massage parlors serving clients that included police officers and government workers, was sentenced Monday to two years of probation.
Clarissa Lopez pleaded guilty in May to felony charges of keeping a house of prostitution and receiving the earnings of a prostitute.
In February 2016, she was charged with eight felonies, following a years-long Tucson Police Department investigation into her business, “By Spanish.”
During a job interview with an undercover officer, Lopez told the woman about the operation and how employees were required to pay a $40 “cut” for each sexual service performed, court records show.
In January 2015, more than three years after TPD began its investigation into the suspected brothels, police raided multiple locations across town that they had found to be affiliated with “By Spanish,” including a pet store and hair salon, according to Arizona Daily Star archives.
Police seized hundreds of pieces of evidence from the 10 locations, including two vehicles, a house, cash and items ranging from a leather paddle to women’s panties, court documents show.
Contact lists from cell phones seized in the raid turned up phone numbers for multiple TPD employees, Air Force personnel, firefighters, Border Patrol agents and other local government employees.
As a result of the investigation, eight TPD employees lost their jobs after they were found to have been customers of or have knowledge of “By Spanish,” but none of the men identified as customers were ever charged in connection with the case.
Lopez also was ordered by Pima County Superior County Judge Howard Fell to serve 600 hours of community service.
Pima County prosecutor Dawn Aspacher asked that Lopez receive prison time, saying she acquired several properties to use for the business, including a house and two apartments, and employed more than 12 women, several of which went on to start their own, similar businesses.
“Not one man ... was ever charged in this case,” said Lopez’s attorney, Cornelia Honchar, as she argued for a sentence of one year probation. “And no woman engaged in this business against her will. This enabled them to go to school, care for their children and what they wanted in a safe environment.”
Honchar equated the workings of “By Spanish” to a meet-up at a bar between two consenting adults, saying that prostitution is the world’s oldest profession.
Because Lopez has been a law-abiding person for the last 2½ years, obeying all laws and not engaging in drug use or drinking alcohol, her life has essentially been like being on probation, Honchar said.
“I do regret what happened and I’ve learned my lesson the hard way,” Lopez said, addressing Fell before he made his decision.
Outside of the courtroom, Honchar said it was a reasonable sentence.
“If we believe prostitution is something that should be eradicated, men should be subject to prosecution as a felony, same as women,” she said.
While human trafficking and child sex slavery are serious problems that law enforcement should pursue, neither of those were factors in this case, Honchar said.
In the gallery during sentencing was Lopez’s boyfriend, Ulises Ruiz, who has a January trial scheduled for his alleged involvement as a co-operator of “By Spanish.” Ruiz is facing six felonies, including illegal control of an enterprise, keeping a house of prostitution, money laundering and receiving the earnings of a prostitute.