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Elite Escorts’ Receptionist testifies

INDIO, Calif. — A desert escort service receptionist hired while on parole testified Wednesday that she lied about alleged prostitution activity, saying she told deputies “what they wanted to hear” to avoid being sent back to jail.

Testifying at the preliminary hearing of five Coachella Valley residents accused of masterminding an interstate prostitution ring, Gabriela Hajar said she wasn’t aware of any impropriety during her five years with Elite Entertainment.

Prosecutors claim Elite was a front for prostitution involving at least 240 women. They contend the alleged ring leader Boaz Benmoshe, 44, and wife Melanie Smith, 24, deployed a menu of call girls from an office hub in Palm Springs managed by co-defendants Moti Vintrov, 33, his brother Eliran Vintrov, 28, and Ofer Moses Lupovitz, 43.

Each is charged with 25 felony counts of pimping, tax fraud, perjury And grand theft.

But Hajar testified that while she worked at the company, she would go as far as to stop the female escorts from broaching the subject of sex in the heavily surveilled office.

“It’s just not something that was allowed. If a customer ever called asking about sex, I would basically cuss them out and hang up,” Hajar said.

While on the stand, Hajar frequently looked at her former employers, who sat in the courtroom wearing orange and blue jail jumpsuits.

“They trusted me. They gave me a job when I was on parole. I mean I’m loyal to them, but I’m not going to jeopardize my freedom,” Hajar said.

“I learned from my visit with the police that it doesn’t matter what I have to say, it matters what you all want to hear,” Hajar said.

Hajar said the sheriff’s investigators questioning her — as part of the Riverside County Sheriff Department’s “Operation Desert Eagle” — were “overly aggressive” and threatened to “walk (her) out in pretty silver bracelets” if she did not cooperate.

So she “fibbed” about talk of prostitution at the office, she said. Asked about her employers’ managerial duties, Hajar said Benmoshe — also known as “Ron Ben”– would do most of the hiring and firing, whereas Moti Vintrov would keep the reception staff in line.

Benmoshe’s wife, Melanie Smith, was at one point a receptionist, but never worked as an escort, Hajar said.

Describing an average day at Elite, Hajar said callers would request “blondes or brunettes, but sometimes they would ask for fat girls.”

“Then we’d contact a girl that fit the description,” she said.

The escort service would deploy an average of 10 women a day to various locales, such as Lake Tahoe, Santa Barbara and Oregon.

“Show fees,” the price Elite charged for their escorts’ appearances, ranged from $150 to $200, paid by cash or credit card, Hajar said. The girls would then deposit the night’s proceeds into several company bank accounts, but weren’t entitled to even a portion of the show fee.

“We weren’t allowed to over-socialize with the escorts, period,” said Hajar, who testified that no more than 50 escorts worked at Elite at one time.

“They would come in and fill out a contract, take a picture and start and that was it,” she said.

Hajar acknowledged, however, taking gratuities from certain girls who wanted to curry favor at Elite, which advertised under different company names on the Internet to solicit new clients.

The preliminary hearing is scheduled to continue at 9 a.m. Thursday.

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