Police say brothels are not that unusual in Columbus

Columbus police say more indictments are possible in connection with the closure of an alleged brothel on Third Avenue. The alleged madam – Tamara Flory yesterday was named in 143 count indictment on racketeering and prostitution charges. Police say the brothel operated for 12 years before detectives raided it last month. And detectives say there likely are other brothels out there.

Bill Margiotta’s scuba diving shop shares a roof and a wall with what police say was a thriving brothel. When he moved his business to the building on Third Avenue, Margiotta heard rumors of what was next door. I did not realize the scope of what was going on here but officers who do business at my store said they are discrete enough and it won’t be a problem. And they have not, Margiotta said.

The dive shop shares a one story brick building just outside Grandview. While the dive shop has a big sign and display window. Next door, curtains shroud the window. The only sign was a neon open sign – now dark.

Even though police say up to sixty prostitutes welcomed men through the building’s rear entrance to have sex for 280 dollars in private rooms. Margiotta says the business did not really affect his. I hate to say it, but it was none of my business, he said.

But a few doors down, a neighbor made it her business. We’d call it the building with the open sign, she said.

The woman, who did not want her name used, called police when she saw up to 20 men per day parking in front of her home. The whole street was packed I knew who was coming on what day. I knew their faces. Some men would have minivans with car seats in the back. I saw doctors with scrubs, the woman described.

To her even a discrete brothel had no place in a neighborhood with children.

Columbus police vice detective Ernest Rice says they’ve been investigating the brothel for years. He says prostitution charges were not enough to close it, so police built a racketeering case.

Prostitution charges are misdemeanors so they didn’t have enough teeth so we were looking for more a permanent solution this time to close the business, Rice said.

Rice says neighborhood tolerance of a discreet operation might allow a brothel to operate for years. And as for other buildings with open signs around Columbus, detective Rice says they are not all that unusual.

They are very prevalent. They can be very discrete. You could live around the corner and not know about it.

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