A former finance manager at a car dealership in Mesquite pleaded guilty Tuesday to owning and operating at least two brothels in Dallas that were disguised as massage parlors.
Jeffrey Wittman, 52, who was a former finance manager at Trophy Nissan in Mesquite, faces up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine, according to a news release from the U.S. attorney’s office. Wittman has agreed to forfeit the building that was used to run one of the brothels and pay a judgment of up to $200,000.
A woman who agreed to provide federal officials with evidence against Sakura told an agent that the woman who hired her said Sakura was a brothel and did not perform massages or other legal services.
Another woman told the informant that someone working there who had HIV or AIDS was having unprotected sex with customers, but she was told that the owner did not care because she had a lot of customers. Those claims have not been verified, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
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Wittman’s company, JBJ, has agreed to pay a judgment of not less than $200,000. Wittman has been in custody since the time of his arrest in March. A sentencing hearing has been set for January 10.
From January 2014 through February 2017, Wittman, along with others, owned and operated brothels in North Texas. Wittman and his co-conspirators managed, promoted and facilitated brothels called “Sakura” and “The Palace.” Wittman, who until his arrest was working as a finance manager at Trophy Nissan, created JBJ with Song to help operate the businesses.
Wittman and JBJ entered into several contracts that helped the prostitution business and maintained a bank account from which the illegal businesses operated. Wittman and his co-defendants used the internet, ATMs and phones to facilitate the brothels’ operations, the release said.
Several online advertisements for Sakura and The Palace were posted during the course of the conspiracy, many of which contained photos of scantily clad women and advertised phone numbers the businesses. In addition, The Palace and Sakura leased space for ATMs to operate.
Dallas police vice officers conducted multiple sting operations at Sakura, 7141 Envoy Court. On Aug. 19, 2014, during one operation, an agent was approached by a scantily clad woman who said it would cost $60 to stay an hour. The woman later agreed to have sex with the detective for $140, a criminal complaint said. The woman was arrested for prostitution.
Sakura advertised on Backpage.com, according to the complaint. Nearly all the customers at Sakura were men, arrived alone and stayed 30 minutes to an hour before leaving.
Wittman’s co-defendant, Chongok Ellsworth, 62, is scheduled to plead guilty to the conspiracy. Wittman’s wife, Chin Young Song, 50, and another co-defendant, Puna Kim, 54, are awaiting trial.