Prostitution charges against a Shelton woman and two other workers from a Fairfield health salon are heading toward dismissal.
A prosecutor on Aug. 8 nolled misdemeanor charges of prostitution against Susan Cecere, 56, of Shelton, Sacha Burton, 33, of Bridgeport, and Kim Arciuolo, 35, of New Haven.
The move means the cases against the women will be dropped if they don’t run afoul of the law in the next 13 months.
It also means no one will do jail time despite five arrests stemming from an 18-month Fairfield police undercover investigation into Deidra’s Health Salon on Post Road.
The two owners of the facility already received accelerated rehabilitation, a special form of probation.
Cecere worked in the salon, giving massages.
Cecere’s lawyer, Frank Riccio, Jr., said his client never engaged in criminal activity — and that even if a crime had been committed, Fairfield police waited too long to bring charges before the statute of limitations expired.
Riccio reiterated Cecere’s stance Aug. 8.
“She is happy to be done with court, and very happy that there are no longer charges pending against her. She will until the end of time continue to maintain her innocence, and she’s happy that this is behind her,” he said.
Former Owner Speaks Out
According to a warrant, undercover cops visited the salon three times in about 18 months starting in July 2011. During the visits, the undercover cops stripped naked and received hour-long massages, according to the warrant, after which the women began to massage their genitals before being stopped by the cops.
Click here for more details from the warrant.
But Dolores Gordon, Cecere’s aunt and the former owner of Deidra’s, took issue with the investigation.
“The charges were unrealistic,” Gordon said, noting the arrests made by police will not result in any convictions. “They ripped the place apart for nothing.”
Gordon sold the business in 2006.
“I don’t know what possessed them to do all this,” she said. “They took the refrigerator, they took the washer and dryer, they took the TVs, they took all the living room furniture, they took the massage tables, they ripped up the carpeting. They were looking for something and they didn’t find it.”
However, the salon was listed on various sex-industry websites.
Deidra’s received several laudatory — and often explicit — reviews detailing acts of prostitution on the website rubmaps.com, which offers users the opportunity to “find your happy ending.”
A neighboring business owner also told the Valley Indy in March that neighbors had for years assumed or suspected prostitution was occurring at the business, but that it wasn’t a nuisance to them, so they didn’t reach out to police.
Gordon said the salon was a well-respected business under her watch. She said she made sure employees weren’t involved in anything untoward.
“I never had a bad word said about me while I was there,” Gordon said. “If we ever suspected anybody was doing anything wrong, believe me, the doors were not locked, I’d walk in on whoever we thought might be doing something. Fortunately, nothing ever happened.”
Gordon said it would have been easier for authorities to use licensing laws to clamp down on Deidra’s, if that’s what the goal was. In fact, the state in recent years adopted new licensing requirements to make it easier for cops to shut down suspected massage parlors.
“Why didn’t they just come in and say ‘Look, you have no license, you have to close down?’ Why they did what they did is beyond me,” Gordon said.
Gordon conceded, though, that things might have changed since she sold the business. “I have no idea what the new owners were up to, I really don’t.”
She speculated that Fairfield police were trying to build a human trafficking case against the owners, but didn’t find any evidence.
“I think the Fairfield Police Department wasted a lot of money,” she said. “Maybe they were looking for something else.”
Police Chief Responds
Asked to respond to Gordon’s statements, Fairfield Police Chief Gary MacNamara on Thursday said “the investigation speaks for itself.”
“I can’t go into what she speculates we were looking for,” MacNamara said.
The chief also defended the length of the probe.
“It’s not like we had a team of officers whose only sole purpose was to investigate that establishment,” he said.
“In any criminal investigation, our officers work the investigation until a time they feel there is enough probable cause and they want to overtly move forward on it,” MacNamara went on. “Those are investigative decisions, whether or not to arrest at a certain time or not.”
The case then moves to the courts.
“Once any investigation is completed, it’s up to the judicial process to take hold,” MacNamara said. “This case is a good example of it.”
Riccio also suspects Deidra’s owners were the prime target of the probe.
“I think in certain respects the state understood that the owners of the facility were the ones chiefly on the radar of law enforcement, not so much the employees, but the owners,” he said.
The lawyer pointed out that the investigation shut down the salon, which remains closed.
“I think that was the target all along, and they got that,” Riccio said.