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Originally published June 25, 2013 at 8:59 PM | Page modified June 25, 2013 at 9:12 PM

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Barista-stand owner, sergeant arrested in prostitution probe

The owner of bikini-barista stands and a Snohomish County sheriff’s sergeant were both charged on Tuesday with conspiracy to promote prostitution, after a months-long investigation by Everett police.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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A bikini-barista stand owner who twice before has been accused of lewd conduct recently managed to get a veteran Snohomish County sheriff’s sergeant to warn her of any undercover surveillance, police say.

It apparently didn’t work.

Authorities on Tuesday arrested the owner, Carmela A. Panico, and Sgt. Darrell L. O’Neill as part of a months-long prostitution investigation coordinated by the Everett Police Department.

Both were charged with conspiracy to promote prostitution, Everett police spokesman Aaron Snell said. Panico, 51, of Snohomish, was also charged with permitting prostitution, while O’Neill, 58, of Everett, was charged with official misconduct, Snell said.

O’Neill, a 30-year Sheriff’s Office veteran, allegedly provided “sensitive information” to Panico, including a description of an undercover patrol vehicle and advice on how not to get caught, said Dan Templeman, deputy chief for the Everett Police Department.

In exchange, O’Neill received sexual favors, The Herald, of Everett, reported.

Panico’s manager, a 22-year-old Shoreline woman, was also arrested in the raids at seven Java Juggs and Twin Peaks espresso stands in Everett, Edmonds, Kent and unincorporated Snohomish County, Everett police said.

More arrests may come later, officials said.

The investigation began in Kent last October, as officers there looked into several espresso stands and eventually arrested multiple baristas for suspicion of prostitution and lewd conduct, Templeman said.

During that investigation, a barista told Kent officers about the alleged arrangement between Panico and O’Neill, he said.

In March, Kent officials notified the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office, which turned the investigation over to Everett police.

As part of Everett’s investigation, detectives “observed both in-person and through on-camera surveillance not only lewd conduct but sexual activity at these stands,” Templeman said.

The FBI assisted with the investigation, he said.

On Tuesday, officers from the Everett, Edmonds and Lynnwood police departments conducted coordinated raids on the espresso stands, as well as Panico’s house, Snell said.

Numerous female baristas working at the stands were also questioned, he said.

Attempts to contact O’Neill and Panico were unsuccessful Tuesday.

O’Neill was placed on paid administrative leave after his arrest, according to Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Shari Ireton. Officials are planning an internal investigation in addition to the criminal one, she said.

O’Neill does not have a criminal record, according to court records.

Panico pleaded guilty to misdemeanor lewd conduct in 2011, according to court records. She was also arrested on suspicion of that crime in 2010, but the charge was amended to disorderly conduct, according to the records.

Tuesday’s arrests were the latest in a string of incidents at the Puget Sound-area bikini-barista stands, popular local establishments that feature scantily clad women selling coffee.

Seattle Times news researcher Gene Balk contributed to this report.

Brian M. Rosenthal: 206-464-3195 or brosenthal@seattletimes.com. On Twitter @brianmrosenthal

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