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U.S. News
Prostitution ring suspect freed after posting bail

Saturday, August 10, 2002

By Torsten Ove, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

A Mount Washington woman charged in a nationwide prostitution investigation is free on bond after a hearing in federal court.

Darlene Washington, 40, of Southern Avenue, turned herself in Thursday to the Pittsburgh FBI after learning that federal authorities in Miami had issued a warrant for her arrest.

U.S. Magistrate Robert Mitchell let her go on a $25,000 bond.

Washington, described by the FBI as the manager of a New York brothel, was one of 13 defendants indicted this week by a federal grand jury in Miami.

The charges came as authorities dismantled "the Circuit," a prostitution network that operated in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, New Orleans, New York, Phoenix, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, San Francisco and Washington, D.C.

According to the indictment, the ring existed in some capacity in all of those cities, but the charges do not indicate the extent to which the business was conducted in Pittsburgh.

It isn't clear if Pittsburgh had a brothel of its own or if some operators, such as Washington, merely lived here and traveled to other cities as part of the enterprise.

Most of those indicted in Miami were organizers of the ring charged with racketeering, transporting prostitutes across the country, laundering money and selling drugs.

Washington, also known as DeeDee or DiDi, is described in the indictment as a secretary-manager of a brothel on East 30th Street in New York. She took over that job when another operator was arrested on federal prostitution charges in March.

As the new manager, according to the indictment, Washington made travel arrangements for prostitutes, kept a daily balance sheet of income and expenses, distributed drugs to clients and paid the prostitutes for providing sexual services to clients.

Washington also conspired to maintain the brothel as a distribution center for drugs, according to the charges.

Most of the operation was directed by Judy Krueger, who owned a brothel in Miami and made calls across the country to the others to arrange for prostitutes to travel. In one example included in the indictment, she called Washington in New York on Feb. 2 for a "prostitution client referral."

In addition, Washington is charged with conspiring with others to use bank accounts of various businesses, including a film company and a computer consulting firm, to "conceal the operation, maintenance, and finances of the 'Circuit' brothel" in New York.

Federal officials in Miami said the Circuit was associated with a similar prostitution ring that agents broke up in March in New Orleans.

That operation snared 15 people, including two area women, Kathleen Ann Pustay, 35, of the North Side, and Paula Cherish, 37, of Arnold.

Cherish was described by the FBI as a madam and Pustay as a traveling prostitute.

During Washington's court hearing in Pittsburgh this week, Cherish watched from the gallery.

She and Pustay are being prosecuted in New Orleans.

Torsten Ove can be reached at tove@post-gazette.com or 412-263-2620.

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