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Update: Colacurcio Case Means Ban from the Adult Entertainment Business

Seattle- from – Three of the five remaining defendants indicted in the federal probe into the chain of strip clubs associated with Frank Colacurcio Sr. pleaded guilty Wednesday afternoon, agreeing to forfeit about $4.5 million worth of real estate in the process.

As part of a plea deal, four strip clubs — including Rick’s in Seattle’s Lake City neighborhood — will have to close within a week; three will later be auctioned by the federal government.

In an indictment filed in June 2009, federal prosecutors accused Frank Colacurcio Sr., his son and four others of racketeering, using interstate commerce to facilitate prostitution, money laundering and mail fraud. Colacurcio and his son, Frank Colacurcio Jr., are now the only remaining defendants.

At issue are allegations that the strip clubs — Rick’s, the already closed Sugar’s in Shoreline, Honey’s in Everett and Fox’s in Tacoma — were used as fronts for prostitution that allegedly garnered the men $25 million in the four years preceding the indictment.

The indictment followed a 6-year investigation that culminated in June 2008 with raids by Seattle police and federal agents on the clubs and Talents West, a Colacurcio-owned agency that hires dancers for the clubs. Federal prosecutors have interviewed more than 200 witnesses, and reviewed hours of recorded phone calls, surveillance video and intercepts from listening devices placed in several Colacurcio businesses.

Celebrating the guilty pleas Wednesday, U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkan called the agreements — which will not land any of the three Colacurcio associates any prison time — “a victory for the people of our region and the rule of law.” Durkan added that the government expects to receive $4.5 million in forfeited property.

Frank Colacurcio Sr.’s nephew Leroy Richard Christiansen, longtime associate David Carl Ebert and Fox’s manager Steven Michael Fueston pleaded guilty.

Christiansen and Ebert pleaded guilty to racketeering in the furtherance of prostitution and money laundering. Fueston pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of conspiracy to commit prostitution.

Per the plea agreements, each will receive five years of probation when sentenced in July and will not serve jail time unless any violate the conditions set forth in the plea agreement. None of the men are required to testify against the Colacurcios, but each is barred from being involved in the adult entertainment industry in the state.

Another defendant, Colacurcio confidant Gilbert Conte, pleaded guilty reduced charges in November and has since been sentenced to probation.

The agreement, Jeffery P. Robinson, attorney for Ebert, said in the filing, takes “into account significant differences between the parties regarding legal standards, factual matters and issues of proof.”

“All parties have made compromises to reach agreements that are fair to the government, fair to the defendants and consistent with the interests of justice,” Robinson told the court prior to the Wednesday’s guilty pleas.

The agreement requires the closure of all four strip clubs by May 5.

Durkan acknowledged that Rick’s, Fox’s and Sugar’s could potentially be reopened by another owner after the properties are auctioned by federal authorities. Honey’s will be demolished and the property essentially returned to the defendants in exchange for the forfeiture of an amount of money equal to the value of the land. During pretrial wrangling, an attorney for Fueston claimed the investigation has turned the FBI into “a vice squad.” An attorney for Ebert claimed that investigatory reports show one undercover officer involved in the effort spent at least $16,835 buying more than 130 lap dances without making a single arrest.

Describing the operation Wednesday, Laura Laughlin, special agent-in-charge for the FBI’s Seattle office, said that “despite budget crunches” the FBI, Seattle police and other law enforcement agencies were able to put their “best, brightest and most experienced investigators” on the case.

In the FBI’s case, court records indicate the lead agent had spent 4 years investigating international terrorism before spending a decade investigating gang and violent crimes, kidnapping and drug trafficking.

Seattle Police Assistant Chief Jim Pugel said described the effort as the largest organized crime investigation in the department’s history. Colacurcio and his associated, Pugel claimed, had been involved in crime “on an ongoing basis for the last 50 years.”

“They exploited women,” he said. “They exploited the neighborhood.”

Asked what set the defendants apart from the other strip club operators in the region, Durkan repeated her claim that the investigation was not aimed at punishing lawful adult entertainment.

“We do not regulate conduct,” Durkan said. “We will prosecute crimes.”

While Jones agreed to abide by the terms of the plea agreement, Fueston, Christiansen and Ebert will return to his court on July 23 to be formally sentenced. The Colacurcios are scheduled to go on trial in January.


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