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{June 14, 2008}   Colacurcio strip clubs raided in racketeering probe

Colacurcio strip clubs raided in racketeering prob

05:49 PM PDT on Monday, June 2, 2008

THANX MATT!!!

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SEATTLE – Police and federal agents on Monday raided strip clubs and a talent agency in the Seattle area as part of a sweeping undercover prostitution and racketeering investigation into strip-club magnate Frank Colacurcio, Sr.

U.S. Attorney Jeff Sullivan says the government has filed a temporary restraining order against properties owned by Colacurcio’s organization, including Rick’s strip club in Seattle, Sugar’s in Shoreline and Honey’s in Everett, as well as the Talent’s West and a bookkeeping office in Seattle.

Another raid took place at a Lake Forest Park home which a records check shows belongs to Colacurcio, 90, who has long been a focus of local and federal law enforcement.

“This is the most significant organized crime investigation we have ever undertaken,” said Seattle Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske.

Along with police and FBI, sniffer dogs were seen during the raid at the home in Lake Forest Park. Locksmiths have been called in to assist at the raid at Rick’s.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office says the restraining order is the first step in making sure that the equity and assets of Colacurcio’s organization are frozen and available to be forfeited if the government successfully prosecutes.

According to court filings, Colacurcio’s organization is under federal investigation for Racketeering Influence Corrupt Organization violations (RICO).

SEATTLE TIMES / Ellen M. Banner

Frank Colacurcio Sr., 90, enters a guilty plea at the King County Courthouse in Seattle in the Strippergate case in January of 2008

Agents and police brought out boxes of evidence after searching storage rooms, file cabinets and strip club bathrooms.

“We believe there is still a lot of evidence to be found and that’s why we did the searches,” said Sullivan.

According to the lengthy affidavit, investigators have already recorded reams of evidence documenting rampant prostitution at the strip clubs, down to the used condoms found there.

Using undercover officers who infiltrated the strip clubs — including one who posed as a manager – as well as informants and witnesses, the government laid out a case where dancers have to pay rent to work at the clubs – as much as $130. To pay the rent, the dancers are pressured to have sex for money. To facilitate that, the Colacurcios set up VIP areas with private booths.

“That area is not lighted the same as the rest of the club and each of the clubs are set up in this manner,” said Sullivan.

The clubs also set up a system to take a cut of the money. When a customer uses and ATM or credit card, they are given the equivalent in casino-style tokens. After performing the sex act, the dancers cash out the tokens, giving ten percent to the club.

The investigation included an undercover officer posing as a manager and the use of surveillance video. Sullivan stressed that no officers ever engaged in sex acts.

According to the feds, the clubs bring in millions, with Rick’s being the most profitable. From 2006 to early 2007, four of Colacurcio’s strip clubs grossed more than $15 million.

The investigation included an undercover officer posing as a manager and the use of surveillance video. Sullivan stressed that no officers ever engaged in sex acts.

Potential charges in a RICO case include use of interstate facilities in aid of racketeering, money laundering and mail fraud. The mail fraud investigation relates to the organizations alleged underreporting of attendance at Rick’s and an admissions tax loss to the city of Seattle of more than $3,000 per month.

The restraining order does not put the clubs out of business, but it does prevent Colacurcio from selling them or borrowing money against them.

Colacurcio’s attorney said late Monday afternoon says there are no formal charges yet.

“People need to wait before judgments are made on this case,” said attorney John Wolfe.

Anyone with information that may help the FBI’s investigation is asked to call 1-877-774-8889.

By BERNARD CHOI / KING 5 News and KING5.com

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