AJC Watchdog: First Alert

Keeping watch on those who hold the public trust and money

Prostitution, drugs, racketeering alleged against Atlanta strip club

A former stripper is suing The Cheetah, alleging the well-known midtown club is engaged in organized crime.

Alison Valente, who has filed several suits against The Cheetah, says club management, security staff, supervisors and even a company that provides limousine services operate a "crime syndicate ... offering a menu of illegal goods and services to its high-end clientele."

The claims made this week in a 126-page federal court filing largely mirror those published in January in an Atlanta Journal-Constitution/Channel 2 Action News investigation. However, the new lawsuit specifically lists the names of the club's owner, managers, security guards and "house moms" as conspirators in a criminal conspiracy to turn dancers into prostitutes for wealthy customers, including "NFL, NBA and MLB players, musicians, and other star patrons."

The suit claims that illegal drugs, including GHB and cocaine, were provided through the club's contracted limo service. The suit makes use of the federal and state Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations, or RICO, acts to claim a vast criminal conspiracy.

Through its attorney, The Cheetah denied the claims and paints Valente as a disgruntled former employee.

"The RICO law was never designed to be used this way and Valente’s RICO claims are spurious, untrue and malicious," attorney Steve Sadow said in a statement released this week. "The Cheetah has made it perfectly clear to Valente that it will not give in to her extortion-like demands and will not settle the RICO lawsuit just to make it go away."

Reporters with The AJC and Channel 2 spent months talking to former Cheetah dancers about their claims that security staff, known as "floor men," used the club's high-priced VIP rooms to set wealthy customers up with dancers known as "fun girls" for sexual encounters.  The dancers claim those who would not participate in the scheme were subjected to sexual assault, including at least one instance of rape, at the hands of customers who expected services other than nude dancing.

Sadow, who represented The Gold Club, which faced RICO allegations brought by the federal government nearly two decades ago, said The Cheetah intends to fight.

"The Cheetah will not stand by and let Valente misuse the legal system for her own personal revenge and financial gain," Sadow said. "Her scandalous, self-serving RICO claims might draw attention in the media, but they won’t be successful where it counts, in a court of law."

Read the AJC investigative story here and watch for more on this developing story at myajc.com.

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