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Friday
Sep092011

Phoenix Goddess Temple Raided as Alleged Brothel

Backpage dot com(PHOENIX) -- Arizona prosecutors have charged more than 30 people affiliated with the Phoenix Goddess Temple, a 10,000-square-foot alleged brothel that had been operating under the pretense of providing "religious" services for hundreds of dollars in cash "donations," police said.

On Sept. 7, 2011 police raided the Phoenix Goddess Temple, an alleged brothel, arresting 18 people.

"They were committing crimes under the guise of religious freedom," Phoenix police spokesman Steve Martos said. "It's a sad situation when people are trying to hide behind religion and church to commit a crime."

The "temple" had been operating in Phoenix since 2009, but authorities didn't become aware of it until residents began complaining. After a local newspaper visited the alleged brothel and published an in-depth story, police launched a six-month investigation culminating in the arrest of 18 people Wednesday. They are still hunting down the other 19.

It was the largest Arizona prostitution bust since authorities broke up the tri-state "Desert Divas" ring in 2008.

Four of those indicted are men, but none of them are johns. Charges include prostitution, pandering and conspiracy.

During the investigation, police discovered the Goddess Temple was operating another alleged house of prostitution in Sedona, Ariz., which was also raided Wednesday.

Goddess Temple founder Tracy Elise, known within her business as "Mystic Mother," was one of the 18 arrested Wednesday. She had also been involved with a similar alleged brothel in Seattle, Wash., that had been shut down in 2009.

The Phoenix Goddess Temple still has several advertisements on the adult entertainment section of classified ads website Backpage.com. An ad for Iyata dated Sept. 5 showed a woman in what appears to be a belly-dancing outfit. "I will ignite you with my touch, breath, and Love. We will Cultivate your ecstasy to it's highest potential," the ad says.

The Phoenix Goddess Temple did not immediately respond to an interview request from ABC News.

Organization leaders had said in prior media interviews that they are not prostitutes, but religious healers focusing on "Root Chakra."

"There's no science and provability about this [healing system]," Elise told the Phoenix New Times in February. "But it works."

The county attorney, however, isn't buying it.

"We're not viewing this in any way as somehow protected by the first amendment," Montgomery said. "This is not religious expression. This is a criminal activity and those responsible thought they were being too clever by half by coming up with different terms."

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