Salt Lake City motel owner and manager charged with running prostitution ring

(Sean P. Means | The Salt Lake Tribune) The exterior of the Salt City Inn Motel, at 1025 N. 900 West, Salt Lake City. The motel's owner and the manager were charged on April 21, 2020, with five felony counts, accused of operating a prostitution and money-laundering ring on the premises.

The owner and the manager of a Salt Lake City motel have been charged with running a prostitution and money-laundering ring.

Rezvan “Ray” Saisani, 55, owner of the City Inn Motel at 1025 N. 900 West in Salt Lake City’s Rose Park neighborhood, and Sameer Syed, 29, the motel’s manager, have each been charged with five felony counts, in documents filed in 3rd District Court on Tuesday.

The two men face one count of conducting a pattern of unlawful activity, a second-degree felony; one count of money laundering, a second-degree felony; and three counts of exploiting prostitution, each a third-degree felony. Saisani also was charged with one count of maintaining a public nuisance, a class B misdemeanor.

A spokesman for the Utah Attorney General’s Office said the two were arrested Wednesday morning.

“The owners and operators of illicit ‘no-tell motels’ enable crimes like human trafficking and fuel the market for commercial sex,” Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes said in a statement to news media Wednesday. “These businesses are tough to investigate and prosecute because it takes an enormous effort to link the criminal activity on the ground to the person at the top collecting money.”

According to the probable cause statement accompanying the charges, the attorney general office’s SECURE Task Force received tips last summer that the City Inn was being used for commercial sex and drug trafficking. The attorney general’s office launched an investigation in August with the Salt Lake City police’s organized crime and narcotics units — an investigation that included surveillance, undercover operations with sex workers and with officers posing as sex workers and clients, and drug buys by informants.

Saisani and Syed, the document alleges, not only knew about the criminal activity at the motel, but collected “visitor fees” of at least $10 from any client coming to see one of the sex workers who were regulars there. Sex workers told police this, and undercover officers learned it first-hand, according to the probable cause statement.

Three sex workers interviewed by police said Saisani and Syed offered free rent in exchange for sexual activity, the statement said.

Agents executed search warrants at the City Inn on Feb. 6. Three long-term residents were arrested, charged with drug distribution and possession offenses; the three have since pleaded guilty and are awaiting sentencing. The Salt Lake County Health Department condemned several rooms because of methamphetamine contamination, the statement said.

Police found registration cards for both long-term residents and short-time visitors, along with a log book that had “V-fee” and a $10 payment written next to the registration in several rooms. Agents seized $1,826 in cash; the charging document declares the money may be subject to criminal forfeiture.