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Galardi Harassment Extends to Tampa

TAMPA, Florida – For the first time in the city’s history, four managers of strip bars and an executive of the clubs’ parent company were arrested and charged under organized- crime laws. Police say the businesses are fronts for prostitution.

Tampa police detectives executed search warrants and made arrests Monday at Pink Pony, 4009 W. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.; Pony Tails, 900 N. Dale Mabry Highway; Gold Rush, 6222 E. Adamo Drive; and Diamond’s, 5718 E. Adamo Drive.

All are owned and run by Galardi South Enterprises, which is based at Diamond’s. The company, headed by Jack Galardi, has a chain of adult businesses throughout the country.

His son, Michael Galardi of Galardi Enterprises in Las Vegas, is the subject of a federal indictment alleging bribery and wire fraud in Las Vegas and San Diego.

Monday’s busts follow a more-than-yearlong investigation and a new philosophy for police and prosecutors.

In the past, dancers at the clubs have been arrested and charged with prostitution or drug misdemeanors. Police say illegal activity has continued. But with prosecution under the state’s racketeering laws, managers can face first-degree felonies for allowing or encouraging repeated crime as part of the business.

“It’s a different approach than we’ve taken in the past,” said police Capt. Paul Driscoll. “In the past, we’ve focused on the prostitutes. With this approach, we have targeted the management and the people who’ve allowed this to happen.”

The search warrants sought business records and sex paraphernalia, including condoms and lubricants. Police seized evidence and arrested six men, all charged with aiding and abetting prostitution. Five of them also were charged with racketeering.

Arrested Monday were Brian Rouleau, 58, executive director of operations for Galardi South Enterprises; Billy Holland, 31, manager of Gold Rush; Glynn Coon, 40, manager of Pony Tails; Gokmen Meyrili, 28, a security officer for Galardi South Enterprises; Aaron Hefte, 29, night manager for Pink Pony; and Dewayne Levesque, 49, manager of Pink Pony.

Of those, Meyrili is the only man not charged with racketeering. All have been released on cash bail supplied by the company, their attorney said.

Police and prosecutors hope the racketeering charges will help bring about long-term change in the adult industry. They said they don’t want to shut down the businesses, just force them to follow the law.

“If they comply with what they are zoned for in the city of Tampa and state of Florida, it’s not our call if they’re in business or not,” Driscoll said.

John Sluckis, a detectives in the city’s Adult Use Enforcement Unit, works to ensure adult businesses follow city codes. Codes regularly broken by clubs, he said, include selling alcohol at clubs that offer nude dancing, violating the city’s 6-foot no- touch rule, using and selling drugs, and engaging in prostitution.

Fantasy Versus RealityLuke Lirot, one of the attorneys representing the six men, said the case is a result of a long-standing battle between the city and its adult entertainment industry. The racketeering charges, he said, will not hold up.

Officers, Lirot said, have mistaken fantasy for reality. When an officer asks a dancer whether she will perform a sex act, the woman uses suggestive language without actually offering sex, he said. “Most of these women have no intention of consummating that.”

Sluckis said detectives have physical evidence of sex in these clubs, have witnessed sex acts and have sworn depositions from employees who say sex for hire is part of the business.

In the past 16 months, Sluckis said, more than 30 women have been arrested in the four clubs on prostitution charges.

Former Mayor Dick Greco said he didn’t know Galardi but he was aware of the clubs’ reputations.

“Some of his clubs had some pretty raunchy stuff going on,” Greco said.

During Greco’s administration, police arrested 50 strippers and club managers in a 1999 undercover investigation known as Operation GSE – for Galardi South Enterprises.

Some of the clubs that served alcohol had women dancing nude. One club had a woman offering to engage in prostitution, and at another, three women were arrested on charges of performing a sex act on stage.

“The Tampa Police Department was looking at that aspect of [the racketeering laws] for many of the clubs for a long, long time,” Greco said.

Part of his reasoning for the city’s 6-foot rule was to help curb illegal activity in the adult clubs, he said.

“Others thought it was frivolous, but if you didn’t stay on top of these people, there would be three times as many clubs here,” Greco said.

Joe Redner, owner of Mons Venus and a target of police investigations himself, said he wondered what took so long for the racketeering charges.

“I’m sure they’ll hurt my business somewhat,” he said.

But Redner, who said he’s never met Galardi, doesn’t fear similar raids in his establishment. He doesn’t tolerate illegal activity, he said.

A Test Case WorkedAssistant State Attorney Richard Lawson said he cannot comment on the current case but said a similar racketeering case was brought against a lingerie shop owner about a year ago. In that case, an organized-crime arrest was made after discovery of evidence that the business was allowing prostitution.

Under a civil section of the racketeering laws, owners of corrupt businesses can be forced to cease illegal activity or forfeit their property. In the lingerie case, for example, the owners agreed never to own or manage another adult business, Lawson said.

Detective Dale Tuvell, Sluckis’ partner, said the case against Galardi South Enterprises is continuing, and other adult businesses could be next.

“We hope it’s something that will cause people to do what we asked them to do,” he said. “Just obey the law.”

Tampa has a mix of laws intended to govern where adult businesses locate and what goes on inside. They’ve had limited success.

Nude dancing and other expressive forms of nudity generally fall under free speech protection. Although the U.S. Supreme Court has rejected some efforts to regulate public nudity as unconstitutional, it has upheld others. The legal challenges can work their way through the courts for years, hampering enforcement.

 

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