Newly unsealed search warrants in an ongoing police investigation of Downtown bathhouse Rising Sun paint the business as profitable but riven by discord and hurt by the economic recession, a place where annual earnings top $300,000 and responsibility for the operation is in dispute.
Police continue to sort through rooms full of evidence seeking to prove allegations of running a place of prostitution and tax fraud.
A Middleton woman who police say owns the place said she actually has nothing to do with its operation, alleging her husband, Charles Prindiville, runs the business and signs payroll checks in her name, then shares some of the profits with her.
"Chuck gives me cash," Cathy Prindiville told authorities in an October 2011 meeting at a Madison McDonald's, explaining how she survives financially. "It's a lot less than it was before. But he does give me money and takes care of the house and bills."
An imprisoned former Rising Sun worker told police that new employees — all women — had to testify under oath and on video before Madison lawyer Dan Stein that they wouldn't engage in prostitution, which she claimed was commonplace anyway, and that Charles Prindiville grew increasingly concerned about sagging profits during the recent economic recession.
"Chuck is mad because the economy is horrible," she told police from prison in Waupun, according to a search warrant. "He says they are going under."
Stein, reached by the State Journal last week, declined comment.
Cathy Prindiville's lawyer, Jonas Bednarek, questioned the propriety of police interviewing her without her lawyer present.
"She has consistently denied any involvement in any illegal activity," Bednarek said. "She's been steadfast in her denial since day one and remains steadfast."
Charles Prindiville, who could not be reached for comment, earlier defended the business. "It's a bathhouse," he told the State Journal when interviewed at his house by a reporter in February. "(Customers) get a back rub."
Rising Sun has operated for about four decades down the street from police, prosecutors and state Capitol lawmakers amid persistent reports that men who patronize it pay for more than just a bath from its female employees.
Cathy Prindiville, in her October 2011 interview with Madison police, said that her husband had not lived with her since October 2010 police raids of the Downtown business and the couple's Middleton house.
The twin raids came near the beginning of an ongoing investigation. No charges have been filed. Although most search warrants in the case, including three released this month, are now unsealed, some remain sealed and protected from public view.
Big earnings, massive evidence pile
The recently unsealed warrants outline the financial parameters of running the Rising Sun — tax records showed gross income of more than $300,000 a year from 2007 to 2009, which police allege is understated — and the colossal haul of evidence that police continue to sort through is centered on allegations of keeping a house of prostitution and tax fraud.
In carrying out eight search warrants in the last two years, authorities have collected thousands of hours of surveillance video from the Rising Sun, thousands of pages of tax records, checks and interview transcripts, eight computers, and at least one car, which has since been returned to Cathy Prindiville.
Police have identified more than 150 suspects or persons they believe to have knowledge of the operation and interviewed at least 17 of them.
Police Det. Lt. Joey Skenandore, who's overseeing the probe, declined comment, citing an active, ongoing investigation.
Employees screened by lawyer
The search warrants reveal that in the initial October 2010 raids, police found cash and money orders totaling $17,240: $7,032 in Charles Prindiville's possession, with an additional $7,205 cash and $3,003 in coins at the Middleton home. Police also seized new clothes worth about $28,000 at the house. A bank statement addressed to Rising Sun's corporate name, Butterfly Tub & Sauna, showed deposits of $20,910 made in a 20-day period in September 2010.
Also found in the raid of the business were stacks of Stein's business cards, with the name of a female Rising Sun employee written on the back of each.
The former Rising Sun employee interviewed by police in Waupun told authorities that new employees were asked by Charles Prindiville to undergo a short videotaped interview with Stein in which he asked a series of yes or no questions, according to the recently unsealed search warrant.
He'd ask if they knew various practices, including prostitution and drug use, were illegal, and explain that engaging in criminal behavior would result in them being fired. The women were required to get a business card of Stein's to present to Prindiville as evidence that the interview occurred, according to the search warrant.
Women got fraction of earnings
The former employee, who told police she had sex for money with clients at the Rising Sun, said that customers would pay for either a $70 or $90 appointment and each woman kept track of her appointments on a yellow ledger sheet, with the amount paid in the left column and the woman's cut in the right.
Of $70 paid, the women kept $9; of $90, they kept $18. The business took the remainder, or 80 to 87 percent of the total charge without tip.
Every two weeks, the former employee told police, Charles Prindiville would give each woman a paycheck from Butterfly Tub & Sauna signed by his wife. Cathy Prindiville told police in October 2011 she didn't sign the checks herself and that her husband used a stamp with her signature on it.
"I have nothing to do with the business," Cathy Prindiville told police.