Cracking down on Houston's sex industry?
HOUSTON (KTRK) -- New developments tonight in Thursday's massage parlor busts on FM 1960. We showed you the alleged prostitutes being hauled off. We now have documents showing the county attorney takes credit for shutting those places down last year when you can clearly see they were open yesterday.
And a lawsuit the county attorney planned to file last year against the shopping center owner to fight human trafficking was drafted, but never filed. Is this another case of a public official saying they did things that they didn't?
The county attorney hasn't made this investigation easy. Withholding records. Changing them. Refusing to often answer our questions. Tonight, it gets downright bizarre.
A state raid at a notorious east side cantina. And there's Linda Geffin.
This MSNBC documentary features her self-described high-profile fight against Houston's prostitution problem.
"She's trying to make a connection to encourage one of them to get out of the life," the documentary says.
In a memo last October, Geffin and the special prosecutions unit (SPU) take credit for "stopping the flow of cash" and the "possible release of countless victims" in Houston's sex industry.
"She has been the face of our office in prosecution of organized crime," said Assistant Harris Co. Attorney Terry O'Rourke.
We've already caught Vince Ryan's office grossly exaggerating what he does to stop dog fighting.
So are they doing it again?
The county attorney has sent threatening letters to landlords, leading to evictions, but the records they gave us show the SPU has only filed two lawsuits to close down suspected sex parlors in more than three years.
Vince Ryan hasn't sued to evict anyone, hasn't seized any real estate or a dime of cash from the sex industry. But fighting the sex trade is apparently good politics.
In a memo to her boss, Geffin says, "I have additional facts and stats on SPU's impact (translating in Vince Ryan name recognition.)"
And there's been lots of national publicity. Take La Costenita. The east side cantina was a front for underage prostitution. But it wasn't the county attorney who shut it down. It was the feds.
Look at Geffin's email, "the raid happened in the middle of our investigation so it made my work at that location moot." She goes on to admit, "I do not know what happened to the women."
Here's where it gets really bizarre.
"We prosecute sexual crimes," said O'Rourke.
This is Vince Ryan's top assistant Terry O'Rourke suggesting KTRK's legal analyst has been critical of the office because he's linked to the sex industry.
Terry O'Rourke: "Many of the people, drugs, alcohol we prosecute, Berg and Androphy defend people."
Wayne Dolcefino: "You're suggesting that Mr. Androphy has a conflict because he represents drug dealers and sex parlors."
O'Rourke: "Well, I don't know about sex parlors."
Androphy laughed when we asked him if his firm has been link to the sex industry.
"He essentially accused you of links to organized crime interests," we said to Androphy.
"I consider the source," he said.
The county attorney has an Inspector General named Nick Lykos. You pay him $140,000 a year. But when county commissioner Jerry Eversole was busted by the FBI, Lykos wasn't asked to investigate.
"Was he asked to do it and was too busy?" we asked O'Rourke.
"No," replied O'Rourke. "Was he asked to do it? No."
Terry O'Rourke wanted to handle this investigation personally, and then he raised plenty of eyebrows when he wrote to the judge in the case to ask for leniency for Eversole.
"I have no connections to organized so let me complain a little bit. This letter is a problem," said Trent Siebert, Texas Watchdog Editor.
Vince Ryan defended the letter in part because it was written on O'Rourke's personal stationary.
But now we can prove O'Rourke wrote it on a county computer with the help of at least one other county employee.
Wayne Dolcefino: "It was done on a county computer."
Terry O'Rourke: "It was submitted on my personal stationary. The fact that I typed it on a county computer, you think that's a violation of law? Is that what you're alleging? And we should conduct an investigation."
Dolcefino: "No, no, that's why you have an Inspector General."
O'Rourke: "We do so many important things in our office with respect to integrity in Harris County."
And these are the guys who enforce Harris County ethics.
"It was written on county equipment. I paid for this letter to be written. That's abysmal. It's shameful, quite frankly," Siebert said.
And wait till you see this -- emails that show us who this high paid watchdog calls when 13 Undercover has questions about his possible conflict.
"There's no words to explain," said Androphy.
O'Rourke emails Rusty Hardin and Chip Lewis. They're defense lawyers who represented Eversole and the developer who lavished gifts on him.
"Do you have any suggestions or recommendations on responding to Dolcefino?" the email reads.
"It suggests that the County Attorney's office is compromised," Androphy said.
You may have seen photos of the county's lawyers wearing badges, even though they're not cops. We asked to see the inventory of who has them. Turns out a lot of them are missing. And that's your watchdog.
13 undercover, wayne dolcefino
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