CLOSED No. 1 Geisha (formerly Chardon’s Club)

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No1 Geisha Elko Nevada Legal Brothel

Red Light Boot Camp: Federal case against No. 1 Geisha managers heats up

No. 1 Geisha
(formerly Chardon’s Club)
357 Douglas Street
Elko 89801
Tel 775 738-9923

This brothel may lose its license pending an investigation, as the manager was arrested for soliciting sex without a work card.

No. 1 Geisha was a legal brothel  and massage parlor with Asian women. Previous names were Mona Lisa Ranch and Chardon’s Club.

January 2011 the proprietor was sentenced to prison by a Federal court for operating an illegal massage parlor in Seattle Washington while operating a legal  Brothel in Nevada. His sentencing stated “While on pre-trial release  (the No. 1 Geisha owner) attempted to recruit women to work at his legal brothel in Elko .  Claiming  he needed to travel to Nevada to repair his home but he was reported by the Elko Police Department and another source that he was in Elko to recruit a ‘lessee’ and employees for the legal brothel. The federal government seized approximately $50,000 in assets from the brothel in Nevada in relation to the illegal operations in California and Washington

Elko, Nevada Where the recession never hit

 Sex For Sale, Legally

Indeed, the economic news in this community of 19,000 is astonishingly cheerful: Housing prices are stable. Commercial building is up. Tourist events are drawing bigger crowds than last year. Unemployment is about as low as you’ll find. The casinos are down only slightly. And the town’s four legal brothels are having a busy summer.

Elko has one other tourist attraction that is surviving the recession nicely, thank you — its brothels. Bordellos are legal in Nevada in cities with a population of less than 400,000 (eliminating Reno and Vegas). Elko’s four houses — Inez’s Dancing and Diddling, #1 Geisha, Mona’s Ranch, and Sue’s Fantasy Club — are all clustered around an intersection downtown and employ a total of about 20 “working girls.”

Business generally heats up with the weather. “It’s like high season for us in the summertime,” says Victoria, the madam of Sue’s Fantasy (who declined to give her last name). “The mining expo is a lot of business.”

The houses are carefully monitored by the city. The women, who are from all over the U.S. and even overseas, must obtain work permits and submit to weekly medical exams. Inside each brothel there are signs warning in English and Spanish that condoms are required. They only accept male customers and the minimum age for admission is 21.

The women are all “independent contractors” and set their own fees. Sue’s Fantasy Club has a $100 minimum, but as Victoria acknowledges, “for some girls, that’s only a striptease. Other girls won’t take anything less than $500.” Victoria has strict rules about the women she hires. “No tattoos, no body piercing, no stretch marks, and no drinking at the bar unless there’s a guest here,” she says. “These are professionals.”

Although the customers are “50-50, local and tourist,” according to Kathy Hill, bartender at Mona’s Ranch, Elko as a community seems to shrug off the presence of the brothels. “Unless you’ve been in town for a while, you may not even know they’re here,” says police chief Don Zumwalt.

#1 Geisha Massage and Brothel
This brothel was also hard to find information on before my trip, so I was surprised to see the “Open” sign on as I drove past Inez’s D&D. #1 Geisha is a street away from Mona’s and Sue’s but easy to find. I also didn’t know that this brothel was going through some legal issues due to a raid on some massage parlors in Seattle and California that were owned by the same people in Elko. Seems like a terrible idea to risk your legal business in Nevada over an illegal one in Seattle or California. I don’t know how much longer this brothel and massage parlor will be open since most of their cash has been seized and the county is going to revoke their brothel operators license due to the federal charges stemming from the Seattle case. You can read more about the brothel’s involvement here. I don’t blame the town or county for wanting to rid the brothel business of unsavory characters.

All the legal issues aside, I went inside and got the feeling that #1 Geisha was advertised more as an Asian massage parlor, also specializing in only Asian girls like Inez’s. The place smelled of incense and bleach, and the amounts were set by the house and were based on time. This brothel and Inez’s were the only ones on the whole trip that had house set rates and negotiating was cut out. At least at this brothel the girl was upfront about pricing instead of being so vague and strange like at Inez’s D&D. She explained that the minimum amount was $100, $200 for a half hour, $300 for a whole hour and $500 for 2 hours. Sounds like a pretty good deal since usually the girls only get to keep half at most brothels. I doubt this house split their money any differently. Either way, #1 Geisha’s days are numbered unless someone else steps in to get a new brothel license and takes over the building.


The brothels in Elko are located in a light commercial-low income residential area just a few blocks southeast, off the main drag. The brothels are surrounded by tree shaded streets and mobile homes with waist high fences. Three of the houses, Sue’s, Chardon’s and Mona’s share one block and kitty corner across the street are Inez’s D&D and PJ’s Lucky Strike which are next door neighbors. I was told that PJ’s hasn’t been all that lucky, they have been temporarily closed, because they can’t get any working girls. All of the brothels in Elko, have about the same number of rooms available, around 7-9. Mona’s had 3 ladies, Chardon’s had 2 ladies, and Inez’s D&D had just one, when I was there in the end of May, Y2K.

The brothels are good neighbors, their exteriors are well kept and landscaped. Sue’s has a fresh looking paint job, which to me, fairly screams, “I’m a brothel and proud of it ! “. Sue’s, is without a doubt, a highly visible, ‘painted lady’. The two story building is a conservative off white on her ground floor. The second floor is a bright port wine color, with electric turquoise trim. Mona’s, next door, by comparison is painted a dowdy sandy beige. Chardon’s around the corner is somewhere in the middle, with her institutional gray paint contrasted with bright pink trim.

Inez’s D&D; and PJ’s are nondescript buildings and not as spectacular as her gaudy neighbor across the street. Inez’s makes up by having a large sign on the corner to announce herself. None of these brothels have a gated, fenced in area, like the brothels near Reno or Carson City. To get into any of the Elko brothels, it’s reminiscent of the prohibition, speakeasy days of the roaring 20’s. You walk up to the door and ring the doorbell. Someone on the inside looks through a one way window or peephole, then after looking you over, you’re buzzed in.

The houses have no parking lots, all parking is on the street. But from what I could see, there’s plenty of parking all around the houses. For truckers driving their semis, there are a couple of businesses in the area with parking lots that you can use if they’re closed, or since South 3 rd street dead ends at the railroad track two blocks from the brothels, there’s plenty of parking on the street that parallels the track.

Sue’s Fantasy Ranch is by far the nicest of the Elko brothels. You can view pictures of the facilities on Sue’s Fantasy Club’s web page. The interior matches the exterior. It looks like it’s been recently remodeled, with new furnishings and a very well stocked bar. It looks like they were going for a gentleman’s ‘club’ atmosphere. The bar seats around 10 people. They have a mirrored dance floor with a brass pole off to the right side. It has two café tables with two chairs each on the edge of the stage. The bartender told me that if the gentleman would like a lady to dance for him, it’d cost $ 25.00. There were a couple more small two seater café tables and chairs along the walls for the guys to have get acquainted chats with the ladies.

To the right of the bar was a small multicolored neon bulletin board. The ladies names and their schedules are written on it. When I asked about the available ladies, the bartender pulled out a little photo album to show me snapshots of the ladies. Each lady had at least a couple of pictures so you could get a good idea of what she looked like. The bartender said shifts were staggered to maximize their available resources.

I dunno why it struck me funny, when I saw them. Behind the bar were a row of electronic digital timers with a name placard for each working girl, instead of the usual mechanical wind-up kitchen egg timers that are universally used by the brothels to time the parties. The bartender explained to me, they were more accurate than the spring wind-up timers, so the gentleman didn’t get shorted on time. Nice touch. Tempus fugit, when you’re having fun.

Mona’s was what I’d call a ‘quaint’ brothel-bar. The exterior looked freshly painted, wearing a coat of clean khaki-beige paint. When I walked through the front door, I had to do a double take. I thought I’d walked into a home, not a brothel. Immediately to the right was a carpeted staircase and a short hallway in front of me. I continued down the narrow hallway towards the light and finally came into the bar area. I looked around and from the layout of the place, It would be my guess that it’d been a family home that had been converted into a bawdy house. The bartender told me that Mona’s was built in 1903. The last remodel looked like it was done when artificial wood grained paneling was in style, sometime in the mid 1960’s. The paneling was well worn and the place could have used an upgrade and remodel. There is a long, olde tyme wooden bar, which was no doubt the original one installed, when it was converted from family home to brothel. It dominated the full length of the short room. There were eight bar stools along it’s length. At the end of the room is a little alcove area with a juke box.

The bartender said there were three ladies in the house, but only one was available at the time. Except for the positive field reports about a couple of the ladies who work in Mona’s, in the Field Reports section of GP’s Website, it didn’t look like a place I’d ‘hang out’ in. Mona’s is a funky little brothel though, with a personality of it’s own and might appeal to some.

Chardons’ is the brothel with the bright pink trim to offset it’s gray walls. The interior looks like a bar stuck in time from around 1950-60. It was well kept and clean. It’s newer looking than Mona’s and larger, but other than that, it wasn’t noteworthy. According to the bartender, they had two working girls and they had only one on duty. She asked me if I wanted to meet her. I replied that I just wanted to sit at the bar for now and have a drink.

The working girl heard me from the open door of her nearby room and came into the bar and asked me to go on a tour. I told her that I’d like to see the place, but wasn’t planning on partying. She insisted that I go on a tour anyway. She showed me the Jacuzzi room, then we went to her room and she gave me her spiel. She explained what an hour in the Jacuzzi would cost, what the house minimum was and was I interested. I told her I was just on a self guided tour and thanked her for her time, then left. I wanted to hang out in the bar and talk to the bartender about the history of the house, but she was busy stocking the bar.

Inez D&D; is the last brothel in my self guided Elko tour. The bar is just a narrow room. Just looking around, it looked like they were either in the process of remodeling, or they’d changed their minds and aborted their plans in the middle of the job, so the place is eclectic. There’s no parlor, per se, as the room is long and narrow, the only seating available is on one of the eight or nine stools at the bar. One interesting touch is the floor to ceiling post left unchanged at the end of the remodeled bar. This round, bare wood post has been ‘signed’ by many of the previous customers. I didn’t read any the signatures, as there were layers of names overlaying the previous signatures, creating a tower of autograph babel. The newer scrawls were done in felt tip pen, destroying the ball point penned or fountain penned names from the past. So I wasn’t able to see if anyone famous or infamous had visited this brothel and signed the, “I was here, pole”.

The walls of the bar were in a pink pastel print wallpaper. Behind the bar was an ornate gold leafed, framed mirror. I guess someone was going for Baroque.

The bartender told me they only had one lady in house at the time. She came out and welcomed me. I was amazed that someone who was on duty 24/7 was so energetic and cheerful. She gave me a tour of the facilities, showing me the hot tub and her room. She proudly pointed out that all the ladies rooms had a telephone. (Most houses have a shared ‘community’ pay phone for the ladies). She led me out the back door and the fenced in grassy yard. She said, after we partied, we could come out here and lie naked in the sun. I didn’t see that as appealing, visualizing areas of my body, which have never seen the light of day, getting sunburned, itchy and well…start, a peeling.

If you stop to think about it, it’s mind boggling, at least to me. This single, solitary, cheerful soul had the sole responsibility of keeping the owners of this brothel in business. Otherwise, like its next door neighbor brothel, PJ’s Lucky Strike, it’d have to shut its doors. With her in the parlor, they could keep their doors open, and probably sold enough liquor to pay for the bartender and some of the overhead, and any money she made was split with the house. The gal told me she made a deal with the owner, she’d work 24/7 without any time off until he got another girl to relieve her and was keeping her commitment to the house. That’s showing a heck of a lot of loyalty for someone who’s an ‘independent contractor’.

I thanked her for her time and ended my tour of the Elko houses.

Would I go back there again ? To be honest, No. Only because I live a lot closer to Reno/Carson City with their larger houses and if I did go east on I-80, I would get waylaid by the charms of the Villa Joy in Winnemucca and go no further.

But, if I were traveling and close to Elko and had the opportunity to visit their brothels, I definitely would. The people I met and talked to said that summer time is their busy season, with more ladies coming to work. It seems there are working girls who travel a circuit of the Nevada brothels. They stay a few weeks here and a week or two there. The girls like it because they’re always the ‘new’ girl in the house. When a guy asks how long she’s been there, she can honestly say, “I’m new, I’ve only been here a week.” Most working girls will tell you that guys are attracted to the ‘new’ girl in a house. They always seem to book well. So if you go, be sure to check all the houses. Ladies come and ladies go. You never know which house will have the right girl for you.

Field Reporter, Dopey

Brothel may lose license after federal case

As a result, No. 1 Geisha could lose its legal brothel license.

ELKO — More pieces of the puzzle connecting an Elko brothel with illegal prostitution in massage parlors in Seattle and California have come to light through the sentencing of three people in federal court.

Carl Hencmann and Tham Nguyen were sentenced Friday by a federal judge. According to court records obtained by the Elko Daily Free Press, Hencmann was sentenced to 16 months in prison along with two years of supervised release. He will not be fined, but all assets seized by federal agents last spring will be forfeited.

Nguyen was sentenced to 13 months with two years of supervised release. She also will not pay fines, but her assets are forfeited.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office recommended Hencmann be sentenced to 18 months of prison and pay a $5,000 fine, and Nguyen receive two years in prison and a waiver of the fine. Both were noted as being risks for re-offense.

Court records indicate Nguyen violated terms of her pre-trial release by contacting witnesses to encourage them to recant or refuse to talk to law enforcement.

Hencmann owns the property at 357 Douglas St. in Elko, where the No. 1 Geisha is located. Although the brothel license was issued to a man named Cong Duc Ho, federal agents have recorded conversations between Hencmann and a confidential informant during which Hencmann arranges to have a woman come to Elko first so he could have sex with her before having her work here and eventually work as a prostitute illegally in Seattle.

Federal investigators alleged Hencmann and Nguyen operated massage parlors in Seattle in which male patrons engaged in sex acts for money with workers, and the activity was not only known about, but perpetuated by Hencmann and Nguyen. A credit card receipt for a ticket from Las Vegas to Seattle was located, and it was connected with a woman with a prostitution card in Elko for No. 1 Geisha. Investigators verified the woman later worked in Seattle for Nguyen and Hencmann.

It is stated in Hencmann’s sentencing memorandum: “While on pre-trial release, Hencmann attempted to recruit women to work at the legal brothel in Elko … He claimed that he needed to travel to Nevada to do repair work on his home; yet he was reported by the Elko Police Department and a confidential source that he was in Elko to recruit a ‘lessee’ and additional employees for the legal brothel.”

Investigators also used testimony from witnesses and bank transactions to verify that profits from the illegal activities were being deposited into several accounts in Hencmann’s name. They also verified the use of a credit card in the name of Suong Tran, a third person also convicted in relation to the illegal prostitution ring.

Tran went into a plea agreement early on with prosecutors, and was found guilty of misprision. He was sentenced in December to 40 days time served and no fines.

Investigators not only claim Nguyen was laundering money and facilitating illegal prostitution businesses in Seattle, but she was also on occasion offering her own sexual services to men for money illegally. She was arrested for the same offense in 2006 by a City of Elko officer, although the misdemeanor charge was later dropped by city attorney Thomas J. Coyle.

Previously, Mayor Mike Franzoia, Police Chief Don Zumwalt and Coyle each said that activities such as those illustrated in the court documents may be in violation of municipal codes governing legal prostitution. Grounds for refusing the granting or renewal of a brothel license include having relationships with convicted felons or those who would otherwise be denied a brothel license.

Calls to Coyle and Zumwalt Monday afternoon were not immediately returned.

Franzoia told the Free Press he would have to consult with Zumwalt on the matter, but through the events recounted in court records there is “grounds to the termination of their license.”

“I would have to speak with the chief to see who has that authority,” Franzoia said. “But I’m thinking it could be immediate.”

2010 Year in Review: Elko brothel’s future may be affected by federal judge

ELKO – The future of one of Elko’s legal brothels could depend on the sentencing of a man and woman accused of money laundering and trafficking people for furthering prostitution in Washington and California.

Carl Hencman is the legal owner of the No. 1 Geisha, 357 Douglas St.. The property’s brothel license holder of record, Cong Duc Ho, is reportedly the son of Tham “Jackie” Nguyen.

In April, Hencmann, Nguyen and Suong Tran were arrested on the federal charges in the Seattle area. After a substantial surveillance operation by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, agents seized assets and documents from businesses in California and Washington, as well as from No. 1 Geisha in Elko. The Elko Police Department assisted with the serving of the search warrant locally.

Although Hencmann is not the brothel license holder, he was recorded by ICE agents making a deal with an undercover operative to have a woman come to Elko and work for him here, learn the trade of being a prostitute, and then go work as a prostitute for him at a massage parlor in Seattle. Prostitution is illegal in Washington.

During a raid on one of the Seattle-area massage parlors, a woman who had a brothel card to work in Elko was found to be engaging in illegal prostitution. A plane ticket in her name had been arranged from Las Vegas to Seattle, and it was paid for with a credit card issued to the Bamboo Sauna, one of the massage parlors under investigation.

Under city codes, brothel licenses can be revoked if their holders or their business affiliates have connections to felonious activities.

Elko Police Chief Don Zumwalt said previously he is interested in the outcome of ICE’s case against the trio. City attorney Thomas Coyle said he would have to review the case and wait for a conviction before pursuing any action against those connected with No. 1 Geisha.

While Hencmann and Nguyen’s attorneys argued with prosecutors about the validity of the claims and filed motions to dismiss based on “unconstitutionality of evidence” Tran told prosecutors a different story.

In his offering of information in exchange for a plea agreement, Tran told prosecutors he had business accounts in his name per Nguyen’s suggestion, and he purchased condoms for the businesses that were hidden in places the women would know where to get them. Tran pleaded guilty to felony misprision (knowing a felony was occurring, but not notifying authorities).

In addition, Tran said Nguyen herself was engaging in prostitution.

In 2006, Nguyen was arrested by city officers for soliciting sex with an undercover officer. She was a manager for No. 1 Geisha at the time, but did not have a card to operate as a prostitute. Coyle offered her an agreement that if she did not get into any more legal trouble for about a year, he would drop the misdemeanor charge against her.

About a year later she moved to the Seattle area and starting getting into the massage parlor business, according to court records.

On Dec. 10, Tran was sentenced to time served (40 days in a federal detention center) and no supervised release. He was not fined, but did have to pay the mandatory $100 review fee.

Hencmann pleaded guilty to trafficking for furthering prostitution, and his sentencing is Jan. 21. Nguyen pleaded guilty to money laundering, and her sentencing is Jan. 14


Red Light Boot Camp: Federal case against No. 1 Geisha managers heats up
City council responsible for brothel oversight

Brothel operators must pay a $2,500 licensing fee to the city and pass a rigorous background investigation. Zumwalt said applicants must provide documentation including financial statements, IRS records if appropriate, a personal history and detailed list of known associates.

“Often the fee just pays for a background check, but not a lot of travel,” Zumwalt said.

For a recent background investigation involving Sue’s Fantasy Club brothel license applicant Tien Lin Chou and his fiancee, Shumei Fang, a police detective went to San Francisco. It was through a visit with the San Francisco Police Department that the detective learned of Fang’s connection with past massage parlor shutdowns under suspicion of illegal prostitution.

Chou’s recent application for a brothel license was denied by city council in part because of information gathered during that investigation.

Brothel license holders must pay an annual renewal fee of $1,250.

Prostitutes are required to get a work card that includes fingerprinting and a background check, although the background check is nowhere near as extensive as the one for brothel license holders.

The initial fee for a prostitute is $121, with an annual renewal fee of $100. Prostitutes must not have prior felonies or prior drug convictions. The women must also undergo weekly and monthly medical examinations and tests.


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