ATLANTA (CN) – An Atlanta strip club engaged in an elaborate scheme to sell drugs and traffic its entertainers to wealthy clients, a former dancer claims in court.
In a lawsuit filed in the federal court in Atlanta on Tuesday, Alison Valente claims that while working for the defendant Cheetah nightclub, she was "the direct target of a crime syndicate operated by defendants that had the purpose of offering a menu of illegal goods and services to its high-end clientele.”
The other named defendants include Trac-Eric Inc., National Limousine, International Follies Inc., and several employees and managers of the club.
The 126-page complaint describes an environment in which Valente and other performers who refused to engage in prostitution were unknowingly drugged with gamma-hydroxbuttic, which the defendants called the “Bill Cosby special.”
Valente says The Cheetah began offering its menu of illicit services when another Atlanta strip club, the Gold Club, was shut down in 2010 for the same illegal practices.
The operation “quickly morphed into a sophisticated crime syndicate of floor managers and girls that would sell sex and drugs at The Cheetah.” The participating women were called the “Fun Girls,” the complaint says.
Valente says National Limousine transports the wealthy clients to and from The Cheetah, and the conducting floor managers are compensated directly from tip pooling.
“The conducting supervisor defendants and the conducting floor manager defendants require/exert extreme pressure on entertainers to perform sexual favors for customers of The Cheetah so that they may get kickbacks from such activities,” the complaint says.
In addition, “Defendants (William “Jack”) Braglia, The Cheetah, and (William) Hagood also directly receive a portion of all monies generated through the issuance of Cheetah Bucks, which are used to facilitate the monetary exchange fueling the Enterprise,” the lawsuit states.
Valente says her refusal to participate in the illegal activities caused her to lose clients. She says her car was keyed and she was subjected to harassment and intimidation from the defendants. On one occasion, the complaint says, a floor manager slammed her hand in a door. She was eventually fired when the defendants accused her of having chargebacks.
The defendants are accused of violating the Racketeer Influence and Corrupt Organizations Act.
“The use of interstate and international mail and wire was for the purposes of obtaining money or property by means of omissions, false pretenses and misrepresentations,” the lawsuit says. “The defendants’ pattern of racketeering likely involved hundreds if not thousands of separate instances of the use of the internet and wires and use of the U.S. mails in furtherance of the enterprise and scheme.”
Valente is also suing the defendants for slander and defamation as well as assault. She is seeking punitive damages as well as declaratory and injunctive relief.
Valente is represented by James McDonough of Heninger Garrison Davis in Atlanta.
Steve Sadow, the lead attorney for The Cheetah, provided a lengthy statement to Courthouse News that described Valente as a "disgruntled, fired ex-stripper" who is pursing a bogus RICO claim.
"The RICO law was never designed to be used this way," the statement said, adding "Valente’s ... claims are spurious, untrue and malicious.
"The Cheetah intends to fight to defend its reputation against the baseless and defamatory RICO lawsuit brought by Valente," Sadow added.
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