A church in Arizona called the Phoenix Goddess Temple been accused of being a house of prostitution, after the police raided the place on Wednesday and arrested 18 people who worked there. They are still hunting down the other 19.
"They were committing crimes under the guise of religious freedom," ABC News quoted Phoenix police spokesman Steve Martos as saying.
Advertisement"It's a sad situation when people are trying to hide behind religion and church to commit a crime."
The "temple" had been operating in Phoenix since 2009, but authorities didn't become aware of it until residents began complaining.
Four of those indicted are men, but none of them are johns. Charges include prostitution, pandering and conspiracy.
A Sept. 5, 2011, ad in the "adult entertainment" section of classified ads website Backpage.com features Phoenix Temple Goddess Iyata.
During the six-month investigation, police discovered the Goddess Temple was operating another alleged house of prostitution in Sedona, Ariz., which was also raided Wednesday.
Goddess Temple founder Tracy Elise, known within her business as "Mystic Mother," was one of the 18 arrested Wednesday.
She had also been involved with a similar alleged brothel in Seattle, Wash., that had been shut down in 2009.