SAN DIEGO – A former San Diego police officer and three others were charged Friday on suspicion of owning and operating five illicit massage businesses in California and Arizona that sold commercial sex under the guise of offering therapeutic massage services, prosecutors said.

Peter Griffin, 78, previously worked as a detective with the Vice Operations Unit of the San Diego Police Department that is tasked with dismantling the business he now stands charged with operating and promoting, Kelly Thornton with the Office of the United States Attorney Southern District of California stated in a release.

Griffin as well as two other defendants, Kyung Sook Hernandez, 58, and Yu Hong Tan, 56, made their appearances in federal court Friday, attorney officials said. A fourth defendant remains at large.

Between 2013 and August 2022, Griffin, a former attorney, owned and operated the businesses with Hernandez, Tan and the fourth defendant, according to the indictment.

“Their alleged criminal scheme included using cell phones, the internet, and banking channels to register their businesses; advertise commercial sexual services online; employ multiple women to perform commercial sexual services in the businesses; manage the illicit businesses’ finances; and benefit financially from their illegal enterprise,” Thornton said.

The Homeland Security Investigations, Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation, San Diego Human Trafficking Task Force and SDPD assisted in the investigation.

San Diego police separated employment with Griffin nearly two decades ago, Lt. Adam Sharki told in an email.

“We want to thank our allied agencies for partnering with us in bringing the investigation to this conclusion,” Sharki said.