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Arson at Heavenly Bodies Strip Club???

Chicago- Cook County sheriff’s police are investigating a break-in and fire at a strip club in Elk Grove Township where Internal Revenue Service agents seized $12 million in cash in 2003.

Sheriff’s spokesman Bill Cunningham said an arson investigation was being conducted. The fire erupted about 9:45 p.m. Monday near the front door of Heavenly Bodies, 1300 Elmhurst Rd.

Cunningham said it appeared there was forcible entry, and a fire was started in a coatroom.

Four suburban fire departments fought the fire and damage was reported to be less than $50,000, according to Lt. Thomas Zaremba of the Elk Grove Township Fire Department.

Zaremba said the club was closed for the holiday and passersby reported the fire.

The state fire marshal’s office was at the scene and is investigating.

The owner of the club, Michael Wellek, also owns clubs in Harvey and Markham. Federal records show the Elk Grove club had revenue of $4.2 million in 1992, the last year for which records were available.

During a 2003 search of the Elk Grove club, agents found more than $12 million in cash. Wellek has not been charged with any crime and he has declined interview requests.

The IRS kept the money, alleging Wellek hadn’t filed tax returns from 1989 through 1999.

Wellek sued for the return of the cash, saying his tax liabilities were less than the amount seized.

Fifteen security guards at Wellek’s three clubs–including some who were police officers–were charged in April with filing false income returns and hiding $460,000 in income.

Richard Barber, a Chicago police officer, pleaded guilty in May in U.S. District Court to misdemeanor tax charges.

As part of his plea agreement, he acknowledged that he failed to report $38,700 in salary from Heavenly Bodies on his federal tax returns filed between 2000 and 2002.

Another guard, Paul Kelley of Homewood, pleaded guilty on June 22 to felony tax charges.

Kelley, an employee of several south suburbs, was charged in an indictment in June with failing to report $45,490 from his guard jobs at two of Wellek’s clubs between 1997 and 1999 and failing to report another $29,990 in income in 2000, including $18,550 from the two clubs.



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