Police busts in Queens the last two weeks have reeled in some big fish in the prostitution rackets near Kennedy International Airport, according to the Queens District Attorney’s Office.
In two busts that have occurred in less than 10 days, Queens District Attorney Richard Brown announced that nearly nine people had been arrested in prostitution busts that include charges of promoting prostitution, unlawful imprisonment and drug charges.
The first raid rounded up six people, including three employees of a Rockaway Boulevard Howard Johnson Express Inn. The 71-room hotel near Kennedy Airport was allegedly being used by Shariq Iftekhar, Naseeb Roomi and Duaraknath Nandori, as a brothel that served a host of pimps and prostitutes operating in the area.
At a court appearance Wednesday, March 12, the location was ordered to close. It now bears signs on its front sliding glass doors — scarlet letters warning would-be guests of the illicit sexual trade that was taking place there.
“While the Howard Johnson Express Inn caters for the most part to business travelers and others, it allegedly also had a darker, more seamier side being run under the watchful eye of three of its staffers,” Brown said. “A brothel catering to pimps and prostitutes, some of whom were underage runaways.”
The District Attorney’s Office said that the salacious activities taking place at the hotel were eventually brought down by a sting operation run by the NYPD Vice Squad and the District Attorney’s Office.
An undercover officer posing as a working girl named Fantasia checked into a room at the Howard Johnson and had the clerk on-duty allegedly monitor men the undercover officer said were “customers.”
When another officer posing as a prostitute visited the hotel, she was allegedly told by Iftekhar that she could get a discount rate on a room because she was a working girl, but that she should give him a “hundred (dollars) for my pocket.”
Other arrested parties were arraigned Saturday, March 8, and charged with promoting prostitution, falsifying business records, commercial bribe receiving and permitting prostitution.
Just on the other side of the airport, little more than a week later, the Ramada Plaza Hotel on the Van Wyck Expressway was involved in a prostitution bust run by the Port Authority Police.
Thomas Spann, 30, an alleged pimp, and two accomplices were arraigned on charges of unlawful imprisonment and promoting prostitution. They are accused of taking two women to Spann’s Far Rockaway home, and eventually keeping them in the Ramada Hotel for the purpose of trafficking in sex over the Internet. If convicted, Spann and his accomplices face up to 15 years in prison.
Police said Spann posted pictures of the victims on the Web site Craigslist, promising potential customers sex in exchange for $160, all while keeping women at the Ramada Plaza Hotel.
“The information superhighway … has a sidewalk that the defendants are accused of using to troll for customers to have sex with two women who they put to ‘work’ in the sex trade,” Brown said in reference to Spann’s arrest. “Prostitution is not a victimless crime but a terrifying and despicable offense against society practiced by callous jackals who enslave young women without hope and victimize them one day at a time.”
The District Attorney’s office said that while the prostitution bust at the Howard Johnson was in response to calls from the community for more enforcement, the busts at the two hotels do not represent a large-scale sweep of chains or businesses in the area.