Operation Velvet Fury Targets Illicit Oklahoma Massage Parlors
TULSA, Oklahoma - Tulsa County District Attorney's Office and the Oklahoma Attorney General's Office announced on Friday the results of an ongoing investigation into illicit massage businesses. The joint operation, called "Operation Velvet Fury," targeted people running what are alleged to be fronts for prostitution - and websites used by the businesses.
Tulsa Police and a task force of local and state agents started making arrests Thursday in a year-long investigation of prostitution. Their work centered on use of an online scheduling system that connected the leaders of the group with customers. Police say they have identified several hundred women involved in prostitution, and many hundreds of men who paid for their services.
The District Attorney said the list of clients is still being compiled in a database for police, with investigators going through thousands of pages of documents listing the details of the transactions.
"If you are consumer of paying for sex and victimizing women, we are coming after you" said District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler.
Police did not arrest the prostitutes, and they are being contacted by victims advocates offering help. Officials describe them as victims of human trafficking, caught in the middle of people making money off them, and customers paying them.
Officers raided four massage parlors, Bellanova, Barbie's, Prestige and Tulsa-T. All were closed Friday. Two of the women running them were arrested, and two more have not been located.
Investigators found all of the players communicating using an app called "Discord." Kakar Chandra, of Norman, was the ringleader, police say, with help from Thomas Johnson of Sapulpa and Kacey Williamson, a middle school employee in the Ripley School district.
"She was very instrumental in running and moderating the Discord app, which was allowing these houses of prostitution to advertise freely to potential johns out in the community," said John Brasher, an Assistant Attorney General.
The affidavit charging Williamson noted the Superintendent of Ripley Schools, Dr. Kenneth Beams, uses the same online forum, and the documents say he is a known customer of prostitutes in Tulsa.
In a phone interview, Beams said the allegation was incorrect, and did not acknowledge knowing about the screen names connected to him in the documents. He was taken into custody late Friday for soliciting and booked into David L. Moss Correctional Center in Tulsa.
"Persons of all professions have been identified as 'johns' - doctors, husbands, lawyers, whatever. And it's something we've been shocked by and it's surprising how deep those tentacles reach," said Assistant District Attorney Kenneth Elmore, the Director of the Special Victims Unit.
Assistant AG Brasher said, "We've identified hundreds of women involved, and on the john side, hundreds and hundreds of johns."
Officials say they expect many more arrests in the case as they develop more names culled from the online activity.
Investigators said their work focused on the people running the businesses rather than the prostitutes themselves. Those in custody include Kakar Chandra, Teresa Adams, Thomas Johnson, Elizabeth Wyers, Gene Gregg, Kara Rodriguez and Kacey Williamson.
"Persons of all professions have been identified as "johns" - doctors, husbands, lawyers, whatever. And it's something we've been shocked by and it's surprising how deep those tentacles reach" said Assistant District Attorney Kenneth Elmore, the Director of the Special Victims Unit.
Police initially said Williamson, arrested Thursday, is a middle school teacher in Perkins, but court documents state she is employed by Ripley Public Schools. She was described as one of the key people involved in the online administration of the businesses.
Attorney General Mike Hunter spoke to women who are trafficked in the industry, urging them to come forward to reclaim their lives with the help of community services.