Cash 'n' Dash

There are three types of escorts: those who are prostitutes; those who "walk the line" (accompany clients to functions or perform strip teases); and those who practice "cash 'n' dash" -- a form of robbery that some in the escort business say occurs frequently in the Valley.

"[Many escort agencies] will tell you exactly what you want to hear over the phone," says Essence Entertainment escort agency owner John Lemonis. "They'll tell you it's a flat fee, full service, no time limit and no tipping required -- which basically means that a beautiful girl is going to come over and fuck your brains out for the rest of your life for free. Of course, some poor guy in a hotel is going to call something like that."

In a case from last April, Scottsdale police reports say a guest at the Inn Suites on North 77th Street was maced and robbed.

The victim was a white male in his 30s, and gave the name John Duncan. For an address, he named the Inn Suites. The escort (who told Duncan her name was Tiffany) arrived at his room at 8:30 p.m. on April 26 and immediately asked to use the bathroom. Once she was alone inside the bathroom, Duncan heard the escort's driver pounding on the hotel room door.

"You better open the door," Tiffany said from the bathroom.

Duncan told police he was afraid and didn't move. The driver began hitting and kicking harder, the door buckling from the force.

"You better open the door for him," Tiffany yelled.

Duncan turned the deadbolt and the door blew open, slamming Duncan into the wall. Tiffany grabbed a $100 bill from the dresser, plus $80 she found from searching the room. As Tiffany left, the driver sprayed mace into Duncan's eyes.

This particular case is unusual -- not because of the victim's account, which is quite common, but because it was reported to police.

"They'll rip 'em off, tie 'em up and, nine times out of ten, they're so embarrassed they don't want to call the police," says Lieutenant Larry Jacobs with the Phoenix Vice Enforcement Unit. "The only time they're ever reported is when they're compelled to report it -- when they're hospitalized or found beaten up in their room -- and even then they usually come up with some story because they're embarrassed and don't want to make a police report that could ultimately cost them a divorce."

Many in the escort industry say Valley cities' recent enactment of laws that limit sexually orientated businesses have caused more agencies to switch from prostitution to cash 'n' dash.

"They thought [the sexually orientated business laws] were eliminating prostitution," says Sara Anderson, owner of the Phoenix-based Secret Service escort agency. "[And it] worked because it's much more rare. But now there's this whole new breed of crime, which is worse. Now people are getting maced, beaten up and robbed."

Adds Scottsdale escort Cole Taylor: "[Cash 'n' dash] is a lot easier to get away with because the girl can just say, 'I took the agency fee and left because [the client] was propositioning me and getting violent.'"

Cash 'n' dash is considered robbery, and frequency statistics are not available. A spokesman for Scottsdale police says that they do not conduct stings for cash 'n' dash, while Sergeant John Stevens of the Phoenix Vice Enforcement Unit refused to comment on his agency's enforcement tactics.

"I'm not going to tell you what kind of stings we do," he says curtly, adding he doesn't believe incidents of cash 'n' dash are related to new laws cracking down on sex businesses.

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James Hibberd
Contact: James Hibberd