Reports Of Sex, Drug Abuse -- And Little Police Work
Second of three parts.
Dan Ring had an undercover car, a top-secret federal clearance, access to a
roomful of sophisticated spying tools -- and an $80,000-a-year salary to
encourage him to track down criminals in King County's sex trade.
For 14 years, the detective worked on his own, rarely checking in, partying
with prostitutes, making deals with escort-service operators, driving the
county executive's car and traveling to Mexico, Thailand and Canada.
Then in October 2004, a King County Sheriff's Office captain made a discovery.
Capt. Cameron K. Webster searched a database where the Sheriff's Office
keeps case reports, incident reports, witness statements, suspect
statements and much more.
Over a five-year period, he found only 17 entries with Ring's name,
compared with 4,500 for the other officers in intelligence. The unit
usually has five to six officers.
"I have been unable to uncover any evidence that any intelligence Dan has
gathered on the adult entertainment industry in the last five years has led
to a single criminal investigation, arrest or charge," Webster wrote.
Beyond that, "there was no record of Dan having filed a felony case in the
last ten years."
Ring didn't agree with Webster's assessment of his work product, saying he
kept his material in different files, and besides, he was out befriending
sex-industry subjects to get information from them.
"It is hard to get people to trust you when you are out arresting your
buddies," he said.
Webster was apparently the first administrator to closely examine Ring's
record for a decade covering the administrations of Sheriffs Jim Montgomery
and Dave Reichert. Ring traveled so far below his supervisors' radar that
he continued his antics for more than two years after two women -- his wife
and an escort-service operator -- reported him for alleged drug use and
Unbeknownst to Ring's direct supervisor, Sgt. Ray Green, Ring was under
investigation by King County detectives, the FBI and Seattle police for a
startling array of alleged crimes. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer followed
up by doing scores of interviews and obtaining and reviewing thousands of
pages of documents to understand how Ring operated -- how he became known
to one local madam as "Captain Save-a-Ho."
Ring formed long-term relationships with two operators of large Seattle
escort services, and though he denied helping in their business, he told
the P-I that informant relationships with officers are what keep escort
services in business.
"It was unclear where his work with these sources ended and his personal
life began, or was it all intertwined?" said Mark Ferbrache, supervisory
special agent of the FBI's public corruption and white-collar crime office
in Seattle, which helped King County investigate Ring.
Charging papers -- in a case against Ring dismissed just before trial by
King County Prosecutor Norm Maleng -- said Ring gave one escort service
advice on how to avoid being caught by police, that he warned the service
about police informants, checked the background of troublesome customers
and employees, and revealed the identity of at least one undercover Seattle
Janine Taylor, Ring's ex-wife, was busted by Seattle police vice officer
Harvey Sloan in 1995 for flashing and touching a customer at a nude dancing
club. Sloan said when investigators told him Ring allegedly had blown his
undercover identity after his arrest of prostitutes at the Westin Hotel: "I
was not happy about it."
"If my ( undercover ) name was out there and I didn't know it and tried to
use it again, I could've gotten hurt," said Sloan, who worked in SPD vice
for 10 years starting in 1994.
Ring's lawyer, Richard Hansen, said the case against Ring never would have
worked in court because the escort-service operators who agreed to testify
against him deny being involved in prostitution. He also noted there was no
evidence Ring received compensation for any help he supposedly provided.
The P-I interviewed Rhonda Wallace, operator of Executive Privileges and
Roxanne's Adult Entertainment, who said, "He would do what I asked him to
do." She added that it was a two-way street. She once gave him information
on a cop suspected of raping one of her girls.
"He made me his bitch. If a cop calls me and says, 'You're going to do this
and do that,' what choice do you have in this business?" she asked. "I
heard him loud and clear."
Wallace added, "He'd let me know when there was a sting coming up, stuff
like that. Whatever legal stuff we could circumvent."
She said Ring would call and tell her to "go on vacation," their code for
an upcoming sting. Ring warned her, she said, against hiring two escorts
who had turned informants after a bust known as Garden of Eden. She said he
told her "not to touch 'em," that they were a "train wreck."
The madam, attired in sweatpants, a loose-fitting T-shirt and leopard print
slippers, constantly took calls on a cell phone while the reporter talked
to her. Her women, she said, charge $300 an hour, and she gets a cut of $80.
She said Ring gave her advice aimed at keeping her out of jail and in
business. She said he told her: Don't advertise that women will travel out
of state for appointments, because that's a federal crime. Don't use credit
cards, which create a paper trail, and don't use the word "escorts" in
advertising because under state law that is synonymous with prostitute.
She said it was helpful when he checked the backgrounds of customers and
potential employees, like the time he warned her away from a woman known to
She knew he was overstepping his boundaries as a sheriff's deputy, but she
didn't think he was a bad guy. "Dan was one of a kind. ... I think he just
got caught up like a man can get caught up. He was Captain Save-a-Ho."
She got immunity to testify, but added: "I'm glad it didn't go to trial."
Wallace worried that if the case had gone through a trial, she would have
been exposed as a madam, scaring business away and possibly bringing
Ring got even cozier with another person in the sex trade.
Janine Taylor had just turned 21 when she was caught up in Eurosport, a
yearlong undercover sting operation set up by Ring in 1992. Her troubled
teenage life in South King County included extensive drug use and
rehabilitation. By the time Ring busted her, she'd been a nude dancer, an
escort and a telephone operator at Personal Touch escort service. The
ex-operator of Personal Touch, Maxine Doogan, described Taylor as a young
kid she'd taken into her home, practically off the streets.
"When you have incredibly low self-esteem and you are doing drugs, you have
sex you don't want to be having," said Taylor, who says she has left the
sex trade and is building a new life.
She said she was fiercely loyal to the escort-service operator, going to
jail rather than testifying against her, a characteristic Ring would later
say had attracted him to her -- a woman who could keep secrets.
Taylor kept Ring's card after her arrest, and in 1993 contacted him to
check on the status of her case. They met for coffee and talked late into
the night. Taylor said one of her motives was to show a sheriff's deputy
that she was a human being, and another was to get him on her side. Soon
they were dating, then living together.
Long before they were married, she said, he shared confidential police
information with her, constantly, and subtly tipped her off if undercover
police operations were planned at Deja vu nude dancing clubs, where she
worked. When he found out something might come down, he'd strongly urge her
not to go to work, but instead to go to dinner with him. She recalls
passing at least one tip to friends.
Their system didn't work in February 1995 because they were fighting. Ring
paged her, but she ignored the page and went to work in the downtown Deja
vu anyway. Seattle vice cop Sloan, posing as a patron, arrested her for
illegal touching and exposure during a table dance. Ring met her at the
jail and she recalls him telling her: "Maybe you should answer my pages. I
was trying to tell you not to go to work."
Jealousy -- And Handcuffs
Taylor said Ring mostly formed intimate bonds with people he'd collared,
made friends with criminals and turned sheriff's equipment into toys at home.
In their trouble-laced relationship, she recalled one early incident that
combined his penchant for spying, his misuse of official tools and what
Taylor describes as "sexual deviance."
"He believed me to be cheating. Being Dan, he investigated the person he
thought I was with," she said. "He found out the guy was into pretty kinky sex.
"He came up behind me and put his arms around me," she said. "Next thing I
knew I was in a police hold with cuffs on, face down with a pillow over my
head. I was thrashing for several minutes. Screaming hysterically. He just
stopped. He got off the bed. He came over and took the cuffs off. Didn't
Taylor ran and locked herself in the bathroom.
"I heard him on the other side of the door, sliding down, like he was
sitting down. He always kept a gun on top of the refrigerator. I heard a
noise ( and ) I assumed he was getting his gun. I really accepted there was
no way out of the house and that I was going to die that night."
When she opened the door, she found him sobbing and apologizing.
In an interview, Ring said Taylor had asked to be handcuffed. However, in a
declaration in King County Superior Court responding to Taylor's attempt to
get a protection order in September 2001, Ring said only, "I put a pair of
handcuffs in my pocket and during foreplay quickly cuffed her hands and
held her down on the bed. I did NOT smother her with a pillow."
It wasn't Ring's first use of handcuffs with a girlfriend. In the 1980s,
when Ring was working off duty as security at the Sea-Tac Red Lion, he
dated an employee named Kathy Brister. She said Ring used handcuffs on her
and she felt uncomfortable.
"I told him to stop and he did," Brister said.
'I Was A Trophy'
Taylor had long ago grown weary of nude dancing, and hoped to stay away
from it forever. She hated the invasive touching by creepy customers and
the ugly atmosphere.
She quit dancing in August 1995. Ring, the cop, opposed the move, she said,
because he liked the money she made, and enjoyed visiting the clubs where
she would perform lap dances for him.
"He hated me quitting," she said. "He was so grumpy. He liked that I was a
trophy, but that I could afford to live at his level."
Ring said stripping is legal, and licensed, in King County, and there's no
law against him dating a stripper.
Taylor spent a year bartending at an Azteca restaurant, and then put makeup
on customers at Gene Juarez, the fashionable Seattle hair salon, as well as
at a photo studio. She and Ring married in 2000, on San Juan Island,
something that he had urged.
But the dark side was never far away, and she was about to be pulled again
into her worst teenage nightmare -- drugs.
Taylor said one reason she was attracted to Ring was the fact he didn't use
drugs, something she avoided because of her harrowing teenage experiences.
But in the spring of 2001, she said, Ring came home from work "excited and
nervous" and showed her some pills.
"There was a drug case," she remembered him saying. "These are unaccounted
"I said, 'What? We don't do drugs,' " she recalled. " 'You are a policeman.
You have three kids. We don't do drugs. No. Thanks for running it by your
wife, but that is a stupid idea.' "
Nevertheless, she was susceptible and he was persistent. Soon, she said,
Ring was regularly bringing home Ecstasy and Valium. She was hooked again.
Emergency crews were called to their apartment on May 24, 2001, when she
overdosed on Valium.
Ring said he didn't use drugs. He acknowledged contacting a North Seattle
personal trainer named Lynn Higman in the spring of 2001, who he believed
was selling Valium and Ecstasy. He said he learned about her from Lisa
Gorrin, an escort-service operator. He said his only reason for contacting
Higman was to assist Edmonds police who were investigating a Valium
overdose by a stripper who might have known Higman. Ring told the same
Edmonds police story to investigators.
But no one named Dan Ring ever helped Edmonds police with the case, said
Edmonds Detective Dave Honnen, after he had consulted with the officer who
worked the case. Gorrin said Ring later told her that he had given the
drugs to Taylor.
Higman told the P-I the only reason Ring sought her out was to buy Ecstasy.
The 48-year-old personal trainer said she sold Ecstasy to Ring six times in
the late spring and early summer of 2001. She said the largest transaction
was for $400. The vehicle he was driving matched the description of his
The drug buyer identified himself as "George" ( which is Ring's real first
name ), she said, and he was a "smooth talker" who "said he was a photographer."
When investigators showed her a photo montage, she picked out Dan Ring.
Higman said two different women were with "George" during a couple of the
transactions. One was a "shifty-eyed" woman named "Sarah," whom she
identified from photos as Janine Taylor. Another was a "jittery woman,"
whom Higman picked out of a photo montage as Rebecca Rose, who currently
lives with Ring. Rose declined to comment.
Higman and Taylor described the first drug transaction identically. Taylor
said she and Ring parked the car in the Lake City area, and Taylor walked
up to Higman to arrange the purchase.
Ring acknowledged that phone records showed around two dozen calls were
made from a Sheriff's Office cell phone carried by Ring to Higman during
the time of the alleged drug transactions. Ring said he didn't make the
calls, except for the initial one, and speculated that maybe Taylor was
using his phone. Taylor said the phone was always in Ring's sheriff's car.
Higman was reluctant to talk about drug transactions. She said she doesn't
use drugs herself, especially Ecstasy, but doesn't object to others doing
so, as long as they are not officers who are supposed to act in the public
"I have never used Ecstasy," Ring said.
Higman told part of her story to a Sheriff's Office internal investigator,
Sgt. Patrick Raftis, who found her in October 2001. That was the first time
she identified Ring in a photo montage, she said. Raftis was working on the
first internal investigation, the one started by Taylor, which was closed
without action. Raftis could not be reached for comment.
Higman said she told her story again to FBI agent Gary Pilawski and SPD
Sgt. Mike Hay after they tracked her down again in May 2003. She said they
eventually made her feel comfortable enough to talk fully about every
transaction. She gave another statement to Pilawski in January 2004. Higman
told the P-I Ring hinted at more than an interest in Ecstasy.
"He was trying to get more than that," she said. "After he started to know
me, after he made a trip to Las Vegas, I believe, he asked me: 'Do you know
where I can get 'go-fast?' "
Higman said Ring may have been referring to either cocaine or
methamphetamine. She said she had no interest in obtaining those kinds of
When Taylor told Sheriff's Office investigators about Ring's drug
purchases, she said she had mixed feelings. She didn't want him to lose his
job. In fact, she was willing to go back to him if someone could get him
straightened out, she said.
A Strange Phone Call
Higman knew nothing about Taylor's report to internal affairs, but she said
she got a strange cell phone call on a date that would have been just days
Higman was driving to Sandpoint, Idaho, where she was planning to live for
a while, helping a friend sell a house. She was outside Moses Lake,
accompanied by another woman, when the phone rang and on the line was a
woman whose voice sounded like "the jittery one," the woman who had
accompanied Ring on a couple of the drug buys.
"I know you are a good person," the voice said. "Someone might be out to
Higman said investigators traced the call to a fast-food restaurant in the
Tacoma area, but could not identify the caller.
"When she said there was somebody after me, instantly I knew it was him,"
Higman said. "Yeah, that scared me."
The Las Vegas trip Ring mentioned to Higman might have been Taylor's 30th
birthday celebration in June 2001. The trip was a drug-soaked disaster,
Taylor said, and led to their final breakup.
Before the Vegas trip, Rebecca Rose had entered Taylor's life at Ring's
insistence. Ring told Taylor that Rose had briefly worked for and testified
against Taylor's madam in the Eurosport bust in 1992, a fact that was
confirmed by court records. Taylor didn't want to deal with Rose out of
loyalty to her former madam, but Ring insisted.
First Rose and her husband, John Finsterbusch, showed up at a favorite
neighborhood bar in Seattle, and soon they were regularly at the apartment
she shared with Ring. Taylor especially didn't want them accompanying her
to her birthday celebration in Vegas, but they showed up anyway.
One night at the casino-hotel where they were staying, Taylor said she felt
the effects of Ecstasy. Ring had given it to her frequently by then, but
this dose took her by surprise. The drug made her feel very friendly, even
toward Rose, she said.
And there must have been something else in her system, she said, because
she passed out and woke up in a hotel room, nude, with Ring and Rose, who
also were unclothed.
"There was a digital camera on the nightstand," Taylor said, and she
recognized it as a Sheriff's Office camera Ring often used.
"I quietly picked it up, and looked at the pictures," she said. They were
photos, she said, of her having sex with Ring and Rose. Very graphic.
Taylor said it was more than a year before she could use the word "rape" to
describe the experience, and she could do so only after seeing a therapist.
She would later tell investigators she felt violated. The investigators
would never find the most graphic pictures, though there were others of the
Las Vegas trip. Pictures were missing from the numbered sequence.
Rose declined to comment. Her ex-husband could not be reached.
"I've read the rape allegations in Vegas," Ring said, referring to
investigators' reports that were obtained by his attorney. "There's a
thread of truth in every story." But then he added, "I never had sex with
anyone on that trip."
Taylor said she decided to end the marriage in August 2001 after Ring asked
her to have three-way sex with the couple again, and with a prostitute in
Canada. She was terrified about using drugs again, and she no longer
recognized the man she had lived with for so long and had married.
"While I was coming from a dark place moving towards lightness, he was
moving toward darkness. When we ended the marriage, he had completely
evolved into everything I was trying to get away from," she said.
Taylor was well aware of the tools that Ring, as an intelligence detective
in the Sheriff's Office, had at his disposal to find her.
But she was unaware that someone else had reported him, and that new
investigators had entered the scene, ones who would like to talk to her and
to help her.
They would soon gather evidence from Ring's computer showing how vigorously
he was hunting her.
Among the tools he used was a law enforcement version of Accurint, a
powerful, privately owned database service used by many law enforcement
agencies that provides a person's name, date of birth, Social Security
number and extensive background information. Between Jan. 8, 2003, and Jan.
13, 2004, Ring made 1,008 information requests with Accurint, and of those
more than 520 inquiries were related to finding Janine Taylor, including
searches for her, her family, relatives, friends and ex-boyfriends,
according to court records.
Ring also made 18 checks on Taylor and her associates on an even more
powerful and exclusive police tool known as WACIC and NCIC. Operated by the
Washington State Patrol and federal law enforcement agencies, these
databases are restricted to police personnel.
Using such tools to track his ex-wife, Ring found Taylor had made a credit
purchase in Nevada -- at Victoria's Secret -- and noted it in his Outlook
file in his computer.
Ring also tracked down people he believed were somehow connected to Taylor.
For instance, he ran the names of several people in Southern California who
she worked with on a photo shoot as a makeup artist. He even got a
detective in Ohio to drive by a house where he wrongly believed Taylor was
living in August 2003.
Ring said he called the Ohio cop only to ask for a personal favor. But
Eaton police Detective Jeff Cotner told King County Internal Investigations
Capt. Webster that Ring's request was characterized as department business.
Ring doesn't dispute trying to find Taylor, but says he was only trying to
return her belongings, which he said were in the garage of his Des Moines
home. A reporter asked Ring why he didn't simply mail the stuff to Taylor's
parents -- as she said she had instructed him to do long ago -- or why he
didn't ask for an address when she telephoned him once after the break-up.
Ring replied: "Well, yeah, and there's that."
As Taylor went underground, she used the lessons Ring had taught her. She
recalled him explaining that if you want to disappear, don't apply for
credit, or regular jobs, or sign leases. She did none of the above, and
frequently changed addresses and cell phone numbers. She hid so well it
took the FBI nine months to find her.
"I do believe that he works with ... criminal intent, that he is fully
conscious of right and wrong, and he chooses to do wrong," Taylor said. "He
believes he can get away with it."
Some say he did just that.
After a 3 1/2-year investigation, and just days before trial, the Sheriff's
Office let Ring retire and the prosecutor dropped all charges against him.
He has been paid, without working, since his arrest in January 2004, and
feels that's proof he was hounded by an unnecessary investigation.
"You guys are paying my wages right now," he said. "And you will be paying
them until the end of November 2005."
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