SEATTLE — A veteran Washington sheriff’s deputy is under criminal investigation over an allegation that he helped his wife work as a prostitute, according to two sources familiar with the inquiry.
The King County Sheriff’s Office is conducting the investigation, the sources said, speaking on condition of anonymity because the matter is still under review.
The FBI in Seattle is assisting in the investigation, one source said.
Sheriff’s investigators are looking into an allegation that the 49-year-old deputy, while under financial strain, aided his wife in working as a prostitute, including using the county’s computer system to check the backgrounds of her clients, the sources said.
Two other deputies are also under investigation for possibly alerting him to the criminal inquiry, the sources said.
The first deputy could face prosecution for promoting prostitution and for misuse of public property, one source said. But the case is in its early stages, with no clear indication of whether charges will be filed, the source said. Search warrants were served Tuesday on the house, car and desk of the deputy, a week after the allegation came to light, according to one source.
The matter publicly surfaced on Wednesday, when King County Sheriff John Urquhart sent a departmentwide email in which he disclosed that three deputies had been placed on paid administrative leave Tuesday pending an investigation.
Urquhart did not reveal the nature of the investigation, nor the names of the deputies.
He said two of the deputies were assigned to the Ravensdale Gun Range, a department shooting facility in southeast King County, and the third to Major Crimes.
“It is not particularly unusual for an employee to go on paid administrative leave during an investigation,” Urquhart wrote. “It certainly doesn’t happen every day, but neither is it uncommon.
“However in this case there will undoubtedly be rumors and ‘talk’ going around, so this email is an effort to quell as much of that as I can,” Urquhart wrote. The sheriff wrote that he couldn’t reveal additional information, but that if and when he can provide more details on the substance of the inquiry he will do so.
Sheriff’s spokeswoman Sgt. Cindi West declined to comment on the matter.
Ayn Sandalo Dietrich, the FBI’s spokeswoman in Seattle, when asked Thursday about the matter, said her office “is communicating with the King County Sheriff’s Office.” She referred further questions to the Sheriff’s Office.
According to the sources, one of the deputies assigned to the shooting range is the main subject of the criminal investigation into possible prostitution.
The two others, a man who also works at the range, and a woman in the Major Crimes unit, are under investigation stemming from an allegation that they might have warned the first deputy that he was under investigation, the sources said. Both deputies at the range are SWAT team members, and the investigation might expand to include others on the team, one source said.
The Seattle Times is not identifying the deputies because they have not been arrested or charged with a crime.
The deputy at the center of the prostitution investigation is a 19-year veteran, who is currently involved in bitter divorce proceedings with his wife.
In court papers, he has accused her of working as a paid sex escort, abandoning their two children and harassing him.
The deputy does not implicate himself in the escort work, according to court documents reviewed by The Times. His attorney in the divorce case declined to comment Thursday.
The deputy could not be reached for comment.