July 01, 2000 09:00am
Sting Operation Leads to Raid of Flesh
Source: Private Dancer Magazine
(SAN BERNADINO, CA) -- Pandering and prostitution are alleged against a San Bernardino nude club and its dancers.
Undercover police officers say they paid dancers to have sex with each other during a month-long sting operation inside the Flesh Night Club in San Bernardino that culminated in last months's raid of the club, according to court documents.
The allegations, which police believe constitute both prostitution and pandering, are described in lewd detail in a 28-page affidavit for a search warrant.
Attorneys for the club have been embroiled in a five-year legal battle with the city over the club's location and argue that the investigation and the raid are in retaliation for recent court victories.
Despite the raid, no arrests have been made in connection with the alleged prostitution ring, San Bernardino police Lt. W.D. Smith said. He declined to comment further, citing an ongoing investigation of the club and its dancers.
But the documents describe several instances when two undercover police officers paid dancers to perform various sexual acts -- including penetration, oral copulation and the use of sex toys -- on each other. This, according to the documents, is a form of misdemeanor prostitution.
Because part of the $100 to $120 cost to watch the women have sex went to the house, the club is guilty of pandering, a felony. Club manager Qiang Ye also is accused in the documents of running a disorderly house, a misdemeanor.
Roger Jon Diamond, attorney for the club and its dancers dismissed the allegations as false and the investigation as an abuse of police resources. The activities described, he said, do not fit the definition of prostitution.
"What they're describing is clearly not prostitution," Diamond said of the documents. "I believe this is a gross misuse of tax money."
City Attorney James Penman said the secret investigation, allegations and raid were neither planned in concert with the office nor a result of the ongoing feud between the club and the city.
However, he said if the investigation culminates in convictions of any of the employees, the city could file for an injunction to shut the club down.
Diamond said he believes the raid and allegations were ordered by high-ranking government officials as retribution for recent court rulings that allowed the Hospitality Lane club to remain open.
"I don't hold the police responsible, they were simply being used as pawns by the city government," he said. "This is retaliation."
Information that prostitution and pandering were taking place inside the club was received by police in late April, according to the affidavit. On May 2, two officers were fitted with a tape recorder and small video camera and sent into the club, posing as civilians.
On six separate evenings, the pair visited the club, the documents said. The affidavit, which reads more like the script for an X-rated movie than a court document, recounts all the monetary transactions and most conversations between the officers and the women. During those nights, they gradually gained the trust of dancers as regular customers.
The dancers, on several occasions, agreed to perform sex acts on each other in a booth in the so-called VIP room, according to the document.
The officers were allegedly told by the dancers that about $45 of the $100 to $120 charge for this service went to the club.
They also described to the officers a system in place at the club, in case of a raid, where Ye would stall officers while other employees cleared the VIP room.
One dancer allegedly told one of the officers that some dancers performed sexual acts on men with their hands. On another occasion, the officers found an empty condom wrapper beneath their booth in the VIP room, according to the document.
All of the evidence gathered by the officers was enough for San Bernardino County Superior Court Judge John Martin to sign a warrant allowing for police to search the club. Along with the Flesh Night Club itself, Ye and eight dancers were named in the warrant.
It was four days after the officers' final undercover visit to the club when the raid came. The business was closed down for several hours while police confiscated the club's records, list of dancers, photos and a single condom.
Because the operation is part of a lengthy investigation of the club, police decided beforehand not to arrest the dancers, but to identify them for future prosecution, the affidavit says.
Though he is adamant that no prostitution or pandering takes place at the club, Diamond said he feared police may raid the club a second time to arrest employees.
"If that's their plan, there's no need to arrest anyone," the attorney said. "Any of the employees or dancers will surrender voluntarily and we'll fight this out in court."
from The Press-Enterprise