PD: Owner’s hotels were safe haven for drugs, sex, weapons

Posted at 9:27 PM, Mar 20, 2019
and last updated 2019-03-23 01:34:08-04

PHOENIX — Police have arrested a Phoenix motel owner whose properties are considered to be a haven for selling drugs, sex, and weapons, according to court paperwork.

On March 13, Phoenix police arrested, Wajid Khan, 37, the owner and manager of three motels along East Van Buren Street for allegedly running operations that encouraged the selling of drugs, sex, and weapons.

Phoenix police, in connection with the Maricopa County Attorney's Office and Arizona Department of Public Safety, began the investigation two years ago into the operations of the Airport Inn, PayLess Inn, and The Western Lodge.

Police said that there were nearly 2,000 calls for service at the three motels in 2017 and 2018. These calls were related to seven murders, 22 aggravated assaults, and 143 fights, documents say.

In one of the most recent incidents, two people were killed in a wild shootoutoutside the Airport Inn in October. Just three months earlier, five people were hurt in a shooting at the same motel.

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According to court documents, the investigation revealed that Khan created a "cash only" business model where the motel served as a "primary base of operation for numerous drug dealers, prostitutes, pimps and gang members."

John Holmes, 55, who worked for Khan and managed the motels, was also arrested, documents said.

Khan also allegedly instructed his employees, including Holmes, not to call the police unless "it benefited the motels in some manner."

Investigators say Holmes encouraged and benefited from the criminal activities going on at the motels, including trading sex with prostitutes for motel rooms and taking a cut of their earnings.

On Friday afternoon, John Holmes told ABC15 his side of the story is different than the damning picture court documents paint.

Holmes says he's worked for Wajid Kahn since 2015, running The Western Lodge, Airport Inn, and Payless Inn.

“When I first took over the property, we had drug dealers, hookers, wannabe pimps, a few gang members and stuff staying at the western Lodge,” Holmes said.

Holmes claims he took it upon himself to try and "clean the place up," but wasn't successful.

"I don’t see why I am involved," Holmes said. "All I was trying to do was run a business and I was trying to run it legitimately.”

Holmes is named as an "accomplice" to Kahn in court documents for allegedly running a "crime ring" inside the motels. Holmes is accused of allowing prostitutes to stay at the property, in exchange for sex, an allegation he denies.

He also denies knowing anything about a conspiracy to profit off of illegal activity inside the motels.

In January, the Airport Inn and PayLess Inn were voluntarily closed and the properties were fenced off.

Court records show that subpoenas have been issued to several banks where Khan apparently has accounts. He has been seen making "large cash deposits on a regular basis," documents say. He allegedly made $772,000 in cash deposits over two years, the documents say.

Investigators believe Khan and his partners transferred and hid money between banks and transported money throughout the state.

Investigators also received information saying the owners would launder their money through several casinos.

Khan and his partners are said to live extravagant lifestyles, owning private jet planes, expensive cars -- Rolls Royce, Porsches and Land Rovers -- and taking expensive trips to Costa Rica and Medellin, Colombia.

Khan and Holmes face multiple charges including illegal control of an enterprise, operating a house of prostitution and money laundering.