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Raid on adult video store leads to 14 arrests

Workers and patrons of Fantasy Land Adult Video Store face charges that include prostitution and drug possession.

By AMY HERDY, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published July 23, 2002


TAMPA -- Undercover Tampa police officers raided an adult video store in Drew Park on Sunday night, making 14 arrests on prostitution and other charges. Once the arrests began, marked police cars arrived at Fantasy Land Adult Video Store at 4715 N Lois Ave. to take the suspects to jail. Despite the police cars in the parking lot, said Tampa police Sgt. James Preston, more customers showed up looking for prostitutes.

"They had no lack of customers, that's for sure," Preston said. "Young, old, yuppie, poor, singles and couples, you name it. They ran the gamut."

Most of the people arrested did not protest, he said, with the exception of one man who said his wife needed him at home because she had multiple sclerosis.

"I asked him, "Then what are you doing here?' " Preston said, before making the arrest.

The arrests began Sunday night shortly before 11 and ended two hours later.

After charging Mark Dennis, Fantasy Land's manager, with renting space for prostitution, five police officers continued working the business.

Male customers lined up in the hallways outside the store's "peep show" booths, Preston said. Undercover officers went into the 4-foot by 4-foot cubicles and arrested the prostitutes when they offered sex for money.

In addition to the peep show booths, Fantasy Land had a full-screen theater with couches, Preston said, and a private room with beds.

The manager told one undercover female police officer she could work the theater or the peep show booths for prostitution, but to make sure her customers paid for the movies first, Preston said.

The prostitutes typically charged $20, he said, and one woman told police she had made as much as $1,000 in one day.

The sting began after people complained about the business a month ago. Police made an initial bust on July 14, Preston said, charging seven women and one man.

The arrests Sunday night included three people charged with possession of cocaine in addition to solicitation for prostitution. Police also arrested a Fantasy Land custodian, Ronald Preston, 40 (no relation to Sgt. Preston). Preston was charged with opposing law enforcement after he began warning customers that police were making arrests, Sgt. Preston said.

Other arrests included: Mark Taggart, 38, possession of cocaine and solicitation for prostitution; Cristal Halverson, 34, possession of cocaine and solicitation for prostitution; Carlos Martinez, 58, solicitation for prostitution; Kevin Stewart, 48, solicitation for prostitution; Carlos Hernandez-Escobar, 22, solicitation for prostitution; Santos Villatoro, 20, solicitation for prostitution; Gary Degler, 39, criminal solicitation, lewd and lascivious; Humberto Dorta, 38, solicitation for prostitution; Christopher Polselli, 43, exposure of sexual organ, resisting law enforcement without violence; William Duncan, 50, lewd and lascivious, solicitation for prostitution; Peter Fiumara, 50, lewd and lascivious, solicitation for prostitution; and Juanita Estevez, 33, criminal solicitation, possession of cocaine, possession of paraphernalia.

Fantasy Land, which is open 24 hours, continues to operate, but not for long if police get their way.

"Our next step is to present the information to legal," Preston said, "and file an abatement to close them down."

-- Amy Herdy can be reached at (813) 226-3386 or herdy@sptimes.com.

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