Two years jail for Bricket Wood brothel owner
PUBLISHED: 12:08 29 July 2013 | UPDATED: 12:08 29 July 2013
A BUSINESSMAN who took more than a £1m a year through a brothel disguised as a five-star licensed massage parlour was jailed for two years this week.
Ross Lawson, 32, of Oakwood Road, Bricket Wood, raked in £75,000 every Friday night offering X-rated services to a stream of wealthy clients at the upmarket bordello in London.
Dozens of prostitutes earned up to £100,000 a year at the sex den, run under the noses of council chiefs in Camden, north London, as a legitimate health club.
Lawson got booze and massage licences from Camden Council for the Steam and Sun Health Club, and kept up to date with his taxes and national insurance contributions.
But, in fact, he operated an 18-hour-a-day brothel for seven years, offering as many as 27 prostitutes each night in private rooms equipped with pole dancing and X-rated videos.
Lawson used the proceeds to pay off £8,000-a-month credit card bills and to fund his and his family’s lavish lifestyle.
When detectives raided the four-storey building in Somers Town in February last year, they found men and women having sex, 27 scantily-clad women, and £3,000 in cash in a jar on the bar.
Lawson, the owner and manager of the brothel, was convicted by a jury at Blackfriars Crown Court of running a brothel and money laundering the profits. Judge Peter Murphy jailed him for two years but warned he would have faced a longer sentence if the prostitutes had not been working in such good conditions.
The judge said: “The Sun and Steam has been described as being as legitimate as it could be as a criminal enterprise.
“It was in any view a remarkably successful one, and I think it’s right to say, Mr Lawson, that in light of all the evidence that success of that business is almost exclusively due to you.
“I am in no position to try to calculate the profits but they must have been very considerable, and supported an affluent lifestyle for yourself and members of your family. This is a case of a long-standing, well organised and profitable business which turned over a great deal of money.”
The judge said many of the prostitutes interviewed by police had complimented Lawson’s style of running the brothel, running an expensive bar and legitimate sauna and steam rooms, and charging a 30 per cent credit card fee but not taking any of the women’s earnings.
He went on: “You were not taking advantage of them in any way.It has been urged upon me that I could possibly suspend the sentence but the scale of the enterprise however renders that impossible.
“But I will say the sentence I pass will be a good deal less than it would have been having regard to the financial success of the operation because of the conditions I’ve referred to.”
Lawson, who took over the failing business from his uncle in 2005, got valid licences from Camden Council and paid annual taxes, even registering several staff for income tax payments.
He was convicted after trial of keeping a brothel and three counts of money laundering.
Lawson was joined in the dock by his sister, Jade, 27, a law graduate from the University of Hertfordshire, who worked as the brothel receptionist.
She was cleared of managing the brothel but convicted of accepting £30,000 from her brother to pay off her student debts knowing it was the proceeds of crime.
She was given a six month jail sentence suspended for a year and put on a three month 9pm to 7am curfew.
A third defendant, club barman Waldemar Walczak, 29, was convicted of earning money from a brothel and transferring £53,000 to his wife and brother in law. He will be sentenced next month.