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Seattle Strip Clubs- the largest organized crime investigation in city history

EVERETT, Washington — from www.heraldnet.com – Honey’s, Snohomish County’s lone strip club, will be shuttered and bulldozed.

Three of the nightclub’s owners agreed to close the business as part of a plea deal reached Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Seattle.

The three men, all associates of Seattle strip club operator Frank Colacurcio Sr., [pictured] entered guilty pleas to racketeering and prostitution-related charges.

David Carl Ebert, 62, of Monroe; Leroy Richard Christiansen, 68, of Seattle; and Michael Fueston, 62, of Tacoma; all pleaded guilty to felonies that occurred at Honey’s, 12902 Highway 99, between Everett and Lynnwood.

The men will avoid jail time in exchange for forfeiting the strip club and getting out of the adult entertainment business.

“We put an end to the corrupt criminal organization that made millions by exploiting young women,” U.S. Attorney Jenny A. Durkan said.

Three other Puget Sound-area strip clubs, Rick’s in Seattle, Sugar’s in Shoreline and Fox’s in Tacoma, all will be seized by the federal government. The properties’ combined value is about $4.5 million, officials said.

Dancers at Honey’s and the other clubs engaged in illegal sex activities and the managers knew about the prostitution, prosecutors allege.

“We’re shutting the businesses down and they are out of business,” Durkan said in a press conference following a two-hour plea hearing.

She said the government isn’t in the business of regulating conduct or content.

“We will prosecute crimes,” she said.

Honey’s, first licensed in 1988, will be open for the last time on May 5. The property will then be appraised and the owners will forfeit the value of the land, according to court papers.

The building that housed the nightclub is set for demolition.

Honey’s and the other clubs “undermined the fabric of our society,” Laura Laughlin said. She’s the special agent in charge at the FBI’s Seattle offices.

Laughlin praised the cooperation of other law enforcement agencies, including Everett police and the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office.

The “pleas are a tribute to the coordinated efforts of the Seattle Police Department, federal agents and local law enforcement,” Snohomish County Sheriff John Lovick said. The roots of organized crime are deep and can include money laundering, narcotics, prostitution, tax evasion and more, the sheriff said.

“I don’t think I can adequately put into words the positive impact this is going to have on our community,” he said.

Honey’s has long been a scourge in the county, officials said. Sheriff’s deputies over the years have conducted numerous raids and arrested dancers for prostitution.

Former sheriff Rick Bart has said Honey’s was a mecca for drugs and vice.

Patti Berry was 26 years old on July 31, 1995. The dancer was killed after she left the club and her homicide remains unsolved.

The club also drew controversy and the focus of county officials.

The County Council imposed stricter rules on exotic dance clubs in the 1990s. Dancers were banned from touching customers, a rule that made lap dances illegal, and created a 4-foot buffer between dancers and customers.

Voters in the county soundly rejected an attempt by Honey’s owners in 1997 to repeal the rules. The effort was defeated by a 70 percent margin.

Snohomish County Executive Aaron Reardon said the strip club’s closure should help revitalize business in the area.

“This closure presents an opportunity to redevelop this part of the Highway 99 corridor,” Reardon said. “This closure also should reduce street-level prostitution and drug activity in the area.”

The investigation into the strip clubs and illegal activity has been going for years, officials said Wednesday.

It was the largest organized crime investigation in Seattle city history, said Jim Pugel, assistant chief of the Seattle Police Department.

Frank Colacurcio Sr., 93 of Lake Forest Park, and son Frank Jr., 48 of Seattle, still are awaiting trial, now scheduled for January 2011.

The Colacurcios have been in trouble with the law before. They entered guilty pleas in the so-called “Strippergate,” a Seattle campaign-finance scandal. They were accused of funneling thousands of dollars in illegal contributions to the re-election campaigns of Seattle City Council members.

Frank Sr. has waged a six-decade battle with officials.

He first entered the adult-entertainment business after making a name for himself in Seattle’s pinball industry in the 1950s. He came to national prominence in 1957 when he was identified as a racketeer in a U.S. Senate hearing. He’s periodically served prison time for racketeering and tax convictions.

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