ELKO — More pieces of the puzzle connecting an Elko brothel with illegal prostitution in massage parlors in Seattle and California have come to light through the sentencing of three people in federal court.
As a result, No. 1 Geisha could lose its legal brothel license.
Carl Hencmann and Tham Nguyen were sentenced Friday by a federal judge. According to court records obtained by the Elko Daily Free Press, Hencmann was sentenced to 16 months in prison along with two years of supervised release. He will not be fined, but all assets seized by federal agents last spring will be forfeited.
Nguyen was sentenced to 13 months with two years of supervised release. She also will not pay fines, but her assets are forfeited.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office recommended Hencmann be sentenced to 18 months of prison and pay a $5,000 fine, and Nguyen receive two years in prison and a waiver of the fine. Both were noted as being risks for re-offense.
Court records indicate Nguyen violated terms of her pre-trial release by contacting witnesses to encourage them to recant or refuse to talk to law enforcement.
Hencmann owns the property at 357 Douglas St. in Elko, where the No. 1 Geisha is located. Although the brothel license was issued to a man named Cong Duc Ho, federal agents have recorded conversations between Hencmann and a confidential informant during which Hencmann arranges to have a woman come to Elko first so he could have sex with her before having her work here and eventually work as a prostitute illegally in Seattle.
Federal investigators alleged Hencmann and Nguyen operated massage parlors in Seattle in which male patrons engaged in sex acts for money with workers, and the activity was not only known about, but perpetuated by Hencmann and Nguyen. A credit card receipt for a ticket from Las Vegas to Seattle was located, and it was connected with a woman with a prostitution card in Elko for No. 1 Geisha. Investigators verified the woman later worked in Seattle for Nguyen and Hencmann.
It is stated in Hencmann’s sentencing memorandum: “While on pre-trial release, Hencmann attempted to recruit women to work at the legal brothel in Elko ... He claimed that he needed to travel to Nevada to do repair work on his home; yet he was reported by the Elko Police Department and a confidential source that he was in Elko to recruit a ‘lessee’ and additional employees for the legal brothel.”
Investigators also used testimony from witnesses and bank transactions to verify that profits from the illegal activities were being deposited into several accounts in Hencmann’s name. They also verified the use of a credit card in the name of Suong Tran, a third person also convicted in relation to the illegal prostitution ring.
Tran went into a plea agreement early on with prosecutors, and was found guilty of misprision. He was sentenced in December to 40 days time served and no fines.
Investigators not only claim Nguyen was laundering money and facilitating illegal prostitution businesses in Seattle, but she was also on occasion offering her own sexual services to men for money illegally. She was arrested for the same offense in 2006 by a City of Elko officer, although the misdemeanor charge was later dropped by city attorney Thomas J. Coyle.
Previously, Mayor Mike Franzoia, Police Chief Don Zumwalt and Coyle each said that activities such as those illustrated in the court documents may be in violation of municipal codes governing legal prostitution. Grounds for refusing the granting or renewal of a brothel license include having relationships with convicted felons or those who would otherwise be denied a brothel license.
Calls to Coyle and Zumwalt Monday afternoon were not immediately returned.
Franzoia told the Free Press he would have to consult with Zumwalt on the matter, but through the events recounted in court records there is “grounds to the termination of their license.”
“I would have to speak with the chief to see who has that authority,” Franzoia said. “But I’m thinking it could be immediate.”