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National Perspective | LAW ENFORCEMENT

Raid in Lodi, N.J.--A Scene Right Out of 'Sopranos' Officers bust into the Ultima Spa, arrest 16 on sex charges. Town is noted for intrigue, including murder.

April 12, 2001|GERALDINE BAUM | TIMES STAFF WRITER

She apparently quit, filed the complaint and then a few days later two FBI agents showed up at her house, snooped around and accused her of having a "vendetta" against Hoffmann, she told the Star-Ledger. A few weeks later, Lodi police--under instruction from the FBI and the U.S. attorney's office in Newark--charged Nevin with filing a false police report.

The FBI said it would look into the matter while the U.S. attorney's office declined comment. But earlier this week, the charges against Nevin were dropped.

"They arrested me when I was five months pregnant," Nevin said. "My fiance had just gotten home from Blockbuster and had Chinese food." She was led away in handcuffs.

When Schmidt, the prosecutor, heard about Nevin's dilemma, he began questioning Hoffmann's ties to federal authorities.

"Funny things happen in Lodi," Schmidt said. "But trumping up charges against an innocent woman, well, that was just too much for me."

Schmidt then launched his investigation of alleged prostitution at the Ultima. It took a year and several failed attempts by undercover officers to infiltrate the spa, but finally, at 11:30 p.m. on April 5, the weather gave Schmidt's 80-person SWAT team a break.

"It was raining, so there were fewer guards outside," said Schmidt. "We got lucky."

Yet neither the raid nor the publicity was enough to keep customers away.

For almost a week, they kept showing up for "massages."

"The police camped outside taking down license plates created a very oppressive atmosphere," said Rosenberg, the owner's attorney. "So finally the police shut it down."

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