A former San Diego police detective who used his badge and his knowledge to run a string of massage sex parlors in California and Arizona pleaded guilty Tuesday to federal charges.
Peter Griffin and three other defendants entered pleas in San Diego federal court to racketeering-related conspiracy, conspiracy to commit wire fraud and other crimes, the U.S. attorney’s office said in a statement.
The wire fraud charge carries a sentence of up to 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine.
Prosecutors said that between 2013 and 2022, Griffin and the others owned and operated five massage spas that employed women to perform sexual services that were advertised online.
The businesses were located in and around San Diego and in Tempe, Arizona, according to a grand jury indictment.
Griffin, 78, was with the San Diego Police Department from 1975 to 2002, including time with the Vice Operations Unit that investigates prostitution, authorities said.
“According to his plea agreement, throughout the course of the scheme, Griffin used the experience and skills he acquired through his work as a vice detective – and in at least one instance, his badge – to help the businesses evade law enforcement; thwart regulatory inspections, investigations and any official action against the businesses; conceal evidence and maintain a façade of legitimacy,” the U.S. attorney’s office statement said.
“No one is above the law. I’m appalled that someone who once took an oath to protect our community could prey on the vulnerable,” San Diego Police Chief David Nisleit said in a statement.
“This is an important step toward justice for the survivors of these crimes,” he said.