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Phoenix police raid church they call house of prostitution, 18 arrested

Authorities say a six-month investigation has resulted in the arrest and indictment of 18 people connected to the Phoenix Goddess Temple, where undercover investigators say they found workers performing sex acts in exchange for money.
KPHO
The Phoenix Goddess Temple, which investigators say is really a house of prostitution
KPHO

(CBS/AP) PHOENIX - Arizona authorities aren't giving their blessing to what they say was really going on inside a Phoenix "church."

A six-month investigation has resulted in the arrest and indictment of 18 people connected to the Phoenix Goddess Temple, where undercover investigators say they found workers performing sex acts in exchange for money.

"Instead of johns, they were called seekers. Instead of sexual intercourse it was called sacred union," said Phoenix Police Sgt. Steve Martos at a news conference Thursday, reports CBS affiliate KPHO. "The women were not called prostitutes, they were called goddesses."

The Maricopa County Attorney's Office said Thursday that among the individuals arrested were men and women "practitioners" and the Goddess Temple founder Tracy Elise.

Elise faces charges of prostitution, illegal control of an enterprise, pandering, and operating a house of prostitution. Others named in the indictment face charges including conspiracy, working in a house of prostitution and massaging without a license.

KPHO reports employees maintain they only accept cash donations for what they call "religious services."

"I don't care if you call it a donation, a fee or call your activity healing or tantric practice," said Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery. "Accepting money for sex is against the law."