Prostitution charges in Phoenix temple case

PHOENIX - Police have charged the founder of a Phoenix church that focuses on "sexual healing" with several felonies, including maintaining a house of prostitution.

Phoenix police say Tracy Elise was among those arrested after Phoenix officers served a search warrant at Goddess Temple on Wednesday .

"This was no more a church than Cuba is Fantasy Island. And let's not mix religious freedom and religious practices with criminal activity," said Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery.

The temple, reportedly founded in 2008, is located near 24th Street and Thomas Road. According to its website, it offers "sexual education," "sacred baths" and sensual touching focusing on "your resonating vessel."

The website also said, "we cannot say for sure that you will have sex with anyone here in the temple, although you will have a sensual adventure."

Phoenix police Sgt. Steve Martos said the warrant was served as part of a six-month investigation into the activities of employees at the Phoenix Goddess Temple in Phoenix and another temple in Sedona, operating since 2005.

Martos said multiple arrests were made, including 58-year-old Wayne Clayton.

Court records released Thursday show that Clayton faces five different charges. Those counts include illegal control of enterprise, maintaining a house of prostitution, pandering, receiving earnings of prostitution, and conspiracy of illegal control of enterprise.

A total of 16 people were questioned by police – five men and 11 women, Martos said. He said more arrests were expected.

The County Attorney's Office says Elise "was involved in a similar suspected brothel in Seattle that was shut down by law enforcement in 2009."

She faces charges of prostitution, illegal control of an enterprise, pandering, and operating a house of prostitution.

In 2009, the temple moved to Phoenix from Scottsdale. At the time, it was also under investigation by Scottsdale police after neighbors complained that a "brothel" was operating in their neighborhood.

Martos said "the investigation was initiated by the Phoenix Police Department's VICE Unit who partnered with the Maricopa County Attorney's Office."

"Instead of Johns, they were called seekers. Instead of sexual intercourse, it was called [a] sacred union. Women were not called prostitutes, they were called goddesses. Instead of a brothel or a house of prostitution, they called it a church," said Martos.

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