A former San Diego police detective was sentenced to nearly three years in federal prison for operating illicit massage parlors that offered commercial sex services, the U.S. Department of Justice announced on Tuesday.

Peter Griffin, a retired officer employed for 27 years by the San Diego Police Department who spent part of his career working as a vice detective, attorney and private investigator, was sentenced Friday to 33 months imprisonment followed by one year of supervised release. Now 79 years old, Griffin operated a network of illicit massage businesses based in California and Arizona, which sold commercial sex for profit and used therapeutic massage services as a front, the Justice Department said in a news release.

Griffin was sentenced along with three co-defendants, identified as 59-year-old Kyung Sook Hernandez, 57-year-old Yu Hong Tan and 46-year-old Yoo Jin Ott, who managed the illicit businesses. They were each sentenced to six months in prison followed by one year of supervised release. 

The former detective and the three co-defendants pleaded guilty in April to federal charges related to the case, with Griffin pleading guilty to conspiracy to money laundering, wire fraud conspiracy, conspiracy to facilitate interstate commerce for business involving prostitution and other crimes in San Diego federal court. Citing court documents, authorities said at the time that Griffin had exploited his insider knowledge of illicit massage parlors to run them himself after investigating and making arrests associated with illegal massage parlors during his time as a vice detective.

Court documents show Griffin, Hernandez, Tan and Ott owned and operated five illegal businesses, “Genie Oriental Spa,” “Felicita Spa,” “Blue Green Spa,” “Maple Spa” and “Massage W Spa,” between 2013 and August 2022. They were located in the greater San Diego area and in Tempe, Arizona, the Justice Department said, adding that the scheme involved “incorporating their businesses with state agencies, managing the businesses’ illicit proceeds, advertising commercial sexual services online, recruiting and employing women to perform commercial sex services and benefiting financially from the illegal enterprises.” 

The former detective and three parlor managers allegedly exploited their employees, pressured them to perform commercial sex services and then profited financially from those illegal services. Griffin used his record as a former law enforcement officer to convince authorities that his businesses were being operated legitimately and once showed his badge to a local officer who was responding to a complaint about one of the businesses, according to the Justice Department. He also allegedly told an employee that he previously worked as a police officer while instructing her to keep quiet about the true nature of the massage parlor.

“Defendant Griffin – a former vice detective who once took an oath to uphold our laws – is being held accountable for abusing his position of authority and, with his co-defendants, operating illicit massage businesses and profiting by exploiting women for commercial sex,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke, of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, in a statement. 

Chad Plantz, special agent in charge of the Homeland Security Investigations field office in San Diego, said in a separate statement, “Peter Griffin abused and exploited vulnerable women by pressuring them into commercial sex for profit while taking advantage of his status in the community.” 

“This sentence sends a clear message to those who mistakenly believe they can get away with such repugnant crimes,” Plantz’s statement continued. “HSI, in collaboration with our law enforcement partners, will continue to work vigorously and bring to justice those who exploit and victimize vulnerable members of our community.”