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‘Tantra’ massage business owner on trial for pimping in El Paso County

EL PASO COUNTY, Colo. (KRDO) -- The trial for an El Paso County businesswoman accused of pimping other women and prostitution began Tuesday.

Shirley King, 30, was arrested in September 2021 after the Colorado Springs Police Department (CSPD) raided an "adult entertainment" party she was at. According to CSPD, she brought multiple women to the party to perform sex acts for money.

King faces four charges; Felony Pimping, Keeping A Place of Prostitution, Prostitution, and Pandering-Arranging Prostitution.

According to court records obtained by 13 Investigates, King provided "tantra" massages out of her business, Sutra Healing Center, located in a strip mall in the 500 block of Marquette Dr. in El Paso County. An informant told investigators that King gave massages with “happy endings” or sexual acts, but classified the interactions as “tantra.”

CSPD's Metro Vice staged a party with an undercover vice detective at an Airbnb in Colorado Springs. King arrived at the party with her boyfriend, who was acting as security, and four alleged workers. That's when King was arrested.

During Tuesday's trial proceedings, prosecutors called the undercover vice detective officer to testify.

According to that testimony, an undercover vice detective with the El Paso County/Colorado Springs Metro Vice Unit met with King twice at Sutra Healing Center in August of 2021 to discuss an "adult entertainment party." According to the court records, King told the undercover vice detective a four to six-hour party would cost between $1,300 and $1,500 and she would provide four to six "girls" that would dance nude.

13 Investigates confirmed with CSPD the individuals involved were adult women. King does not face any charges involving minors.

The undercover vice detective said he told King he wanted privacy, discretion, "no boundaries," and a good time with the girls. King confirmed this would happen. 

During his testimony, the undercover vice detective said he donated $100 as a down payment for the party.

Prosecutors played an audio recording of the interactions between the undercover vice detective and King that was recorded on his phone. However, it was difficult to hear any of the interactions between the two from the courtroom gallery.

During the second meet-up at King's business, the undercover vice detective testified that King provided a full "body slide" massage while she and the undercover vice detective were completely nude.

At the beginning of his testimony, the undercover vice detective said there were no policies, procedures, or hard-line rules for undercover detectives in place that said an undercover detective "can't do this or that." The undercover vice detective said he fully expected going into the investigation dealing with the business of sex that he would probably have to expose himself or be nude at some point.

The undercover vice detective said the massage was "sexual in nature", however, he said there was no sexual intercourse.

In October 2021, KRDO reached out to Colorado Springs Police about the investigation. Then-Police Chief Vince Niski said the tactics used during the anti-prostitution operation "crossed a line." However, the undercover vice detective was not placed on leave.

Chief Niski released the following statement to 13 Investigates:

As the Chief of Police, I will always be transparent with the community. Those who call Colorado Springs home deserve nothing less. I was completely unaware that this was occurring within the Metro VNI multi-jurisdictional team, and I view the tactics used in this investigation as unacceptable. As soon as this was brought to my attention, I immediately halted all investigations of this nature. To answer the question on many community members' minds, I want to strongly state that yes, this tactic does ‘cross the line’ when it comes to investigative strategies. I am appreciative of those who brought forward concerns and want the community members of Colorado Springs to know that this is an issue that is now being fully addressed.

Former Colorado Springs Chief of Police Vince Niski

The defense pointed out that the undercover never expressed discomfort to King during the massage, nor did he tell her to stop. King never engaged in sexual intercourse.

The defense argued that the body slide massage was advertised as the tantra experience, and is a part of the healing experience of the massage.

During the massage, the undercover vice detective said he discussed the particulars of the adult entertainment party with King. Multiple girls would be present and would be available for sexual services including herself. According to the undercover vice detective's report following the second meeting with King, she referred to her business as an escort business.

At the end of the massage, the undercover vice detective said King asked if he would like to take a shower with her. The undercover vice detective testified that King told him, “I pleased you and now you are going to please me.”

However, the undercover vice detective said he chose not to engage with the request, instead, he paid King $400 for the massage and left.

King visibly gasped inside the courtroom following the undercover vice detective's testimony claiming that she asked him to please her.

After the jury left the courtroom, prosecutors told the judge that King's audible reactions to testimony were distracting and asked her to stop. The defense responded by saying that she is only conferring with counsel.

The judge chose not to place a gag order on King. However, the judge said it was in King's best interest to confer with counsel more quietly.

Later on, the undercover vice detective was asked about the adult entertainment party staged by the CSPD in September 2021. He testified that King brought four "girls" to the party, he referred to the adult women as girls.

When the undercover vice detective paid the initial cash payment for the girls arriving at the party he paid $300 for each one. The undercover vice detective said King took the cash and organized everything when it came to bringing girls to the party.

Prosecutors played an audio recording of the jury where multiple women were asked by the undercover vice detective how much for sex. In the audio recordings, multiple women named their prices, which ranged from $800 to $1,500. The undercover said King also named a price for herself.

The defense pointed out that CSPD was providing alcohol at the party, and everyone was drinking. However, the undercover testified he drank just one seltzer over several hours.

Through their line of questioning, the defense said the undercover vice detective was dictating the conversation with the girls about sex for money, and they may not have necessarily arrived at the party looking for sex.

The undercover vice detective responded by stating that he asked a question, and the girls responded.

The trial is expected to continue on Thursday.

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Dan Beedie

Dan is a reporter with the 13 Investigates team. Learn more about Dan here.

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