IT'S THE STEAMY CASE that officers gab about in the hallways of the King County Sheriff's Office: Nicole "Pepper" Prigger, the willowy alleged $175-an-hour escort service prostitute who posed for coquettish pictures sprawled atop patrol cars; Jeremy M. Woods, a state trooper, Prigger's live-in boyfriend who allegedly accepted her earnings; her buddy, the young sheriff's department Explorer scout who gave her insider police information; and the King County deputies who were accused of having sex with her.
At one point—according to interviews, sheriff's internal reports, and sworn court documents—county vice detectives tailed the 22-year-old Prigger from a Kirkland motel where they say she had sex with an escort service customer, then drove to a restaurant near the Washington State Patrol detachment in Bellevue where she handed something to her trooper boyfriend. Detectives later found four $100 bills in the console of the trooper's patrol car, according to sworn affidavits.
The quirky 20-month-old case has undergone detailed criminal and internal review by the county and state, and has been sent to the prosecutor's office for possible charges against trooper Woods, 29. A trooper for two years, Woods and the woman were arrested and jailed for prostitution and money laundering, then released pending charges. A WSP spokesman in Bellevue says Woods was fired as a result of an internal probe into the criminal allegations. But WSP headquarters spokesman Lt. Glenn Cramer says that officially, Woods voluntarily resigned.
Due in part to increased scrutiny of officer misconduct created by the Seattle Police Department's internal scandal, the prosecutor's office is studying the trooper's case carefully. "It will be several more weeks until we decide on Mr. Woods," says prosecutor's spokesperson Dan Donohoe. Woods did not return a message left on his answering machine.
Prigger, thrice arrested for prostitution and who worked briefly as a sheriff's informant, also has not been officially charged.
But justice has been swift for the 21-year-old scout. He was stripped of his uniform last year and drummed out of the county's volunteer Explorers, a search, rescue, and police training program run with the Boy Scouts of America. He admitted Prigger sometimes introduced him to others as a member of the county SWAT team—which he seemed to enjoy—and that she had persuaded him to improperly pass along personal information about a vice detective who arrested her.
Apparently a truly trustworthy and loyal scout, he didn't believe his friend was selling sex, he says. "I have asked her straight out before, 'Are you sleeping with any of these guys?' And she's told me no. So. . . ."
First arrested in March 1997, Prigger was nabbed again in September that year during a county vice probe into the Personal Touch Escort Service as a front for prostitution, detectives say. The vice squad had an undercover female detective working inside the service, whose headquarters in Snohomish County was busted in April this year.
Prigger didn't want relatives to know she'd been arrested, records show, and agreed to work as an informant in return for immunity.
Checking out her background, detectives drove by her four-bedroom $178,000 Bonney Lake home near Sumner and saw a state patrol cruiser in the driveway. She confirmed she lived with a trooper and said she was friends with officers from several agencies, including a "SWAT buddy" with the county. She claimed, documents show, she was intimate with the buddy and two officers from county Precinct 3 in Maple Valley.
According to county vice Detective Mike Garske, Prigger "told me that she went from a casual affair with these officers to charging them for sex." An internal report by Garske says Prigger claimed "the officers knew that paying for sex was illegal, so they gave her expensive gifts such as a purse or wallet." She did not, however, reveal names.
Prigger, after calling her supposed friend on the SWAT team, tried to impress Garske by relating personal info about him. She noted that Garske was nominated for Officer of the Year at Precinct 4, "that I was a good cop, my wife was a police officer and that she played tennis."
Prigger wouldn't reveal her "SWAT" source (the gabby Explorer scout, it turned out). But, upon learning she had not-too-brightly informed fellow escort workers she was helping the vice squad develop a case against them, Garske ended his agreement with her—although not his investigation.
In February 1998, detectives followed Prigger to the Kirkland motel, then Bellevue, documents show. At an Eastgate restaurant near the patrol offices, they watched her hand something to the live-in trooper.
She had only $28 when she was arrested shortly thereafter for prostitution. Armed with a search warrant, detectives then invaded the Bonney Lake home and arrested Woods, finding $400 in his patrol car, they say. Inside the home, they confiscated a notebook with names and such notations as "regular" or "likes fighting/wrestling." Also discovered were photos of Prigger sitting on the patrol cars of the trooper and county deputies.
Detectives found the numbers of two King County deputies on a phone list separate from the notebook. But both officers have denied any relationship with the woman, claiming she fabricated the sex stories. No deputies have been charged in the case.
Also found at the home were photos that led detectives to the talkative Explorer, a young Kent man who later admitted he was the "SWAT buddy." A friend of the woman for four years, the scout insisted they hadn't been intimate, although "I have given her a couple back rubs," he told investigators.
He indicated he was beguiled into passing along inside details to the attractive blonde. "She was like, you know, 'I'm your friend. How come you're not gonna help me out?'" he told probers, adding: "I said 'You're not throwing my name around, are you?'"
Prigger told him no. But, the obedient scout confessed, "I didn't really trust her."
Cop-watcher John Hoffman provided source material for this article.