Sex, sports and the mob: The Gold Club trial
ATLANTA, Georgia (CNN) -- Atlanta's Gold Club is one of the city's most prominent strip clubs, bringing in millions of dollars a year and attracting athletes, celebrities and other wealthy patrons.
Federal prosecutors allege that the club is also a front for prostitution, credit card fraud, money laundering and other crimes. In a sweeping racketeering indictment that reads like a crime novel, authorities allege that club owner Steve Kaplan and his associates had ties to the Gambino crime family.
Kaplan, along with a former dancer at the club and five others, is on trial at the federal courthouse in Atlanta.
Former club manager Thomas "Ziggy" Sicignano, one of the prosecution's star witnesses, testified that he arranged for dancers to have sex with a number of high-profile athletes, including former New York Knicks' basketball player John Starks.
The case has focused on allegations that Kaplan and trusted employees paid club dancers to have sex with athletes and other celebrities to raise the club's profile.
Prosecutors have said Terrell Davis of the NFL's Denver Broncos, Jamal Anderson of the NFL's Atlanta Falcons and Patrick Ewing of the NBA's New York Knicks will testify. In addition, at least two other basketball stars, Dikembe Mutombo of the Philadelphia 76ers and former NBA player Dennis Rodman, have been subpoenaed.
An attorney for Starks told CNN that Starks, if called to testify, would confirm he had sex with Gold Club strippers "a long time ago" before he "re-dedicated his life to Christ."
Sicignano cut a plea deal with prosecutors, admitting to a felony charge of failing to turn over information to the government about a crime in exchange for his testimony.
He testified Kaplan arranged for dancers to have sex with the players in private rooms at club, in the players' hotel rooms and even sent dancers to the Knicks' 1997 training camp in South Carolina to meet with players.
Toronto Raptors star Antonio Davis was also named in the testimony. He called the allegations against him "malicious lies" and has filed a $50 million defamation lawsuit against Sicignano.
The defense argues that Sicignano was responsible for any prostitution that may have gone on in the club.
Steve Sadow, Kaplan's attorney, told jurors in his opening statement that the case was built on "lies and prejudice" from witnesses "bought and paid for" by the government. He called Kaplan a "legitimate, hard-working businessman."
The Gold Club charges were brought under the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act, the government's principal weapon against organized crime.
A property seizure law, RICO was designed to attack Mafia-style organized crime, but its application has been broad. Prosecutors have used it to target a wide range of businesses, from adult video and book store owners to politicians and union leaders.
Prosecutors allege that Kaplan and his associates were involved in a wide-ranging criminal enterprise involving:
Credit card fraud, for allegedly overcharging customers and adding huge, unauthorized, tips to their credit card bills. One customer allegedly was charged $24,000 in one visit.
Failing to report earnings used to pay the Gambino crime family for protection.
Bribing two Delta Airlines employees to get illegal discounts on airfare.
Obstruction of justice.
In addition to Kaplan, the defendants are:
Michael "Mikey Scars" DiLeonardo, accused of extortion, money laundering and obstruction of justice. He is identified in the indictment as a captain in the Gambino crime family, though he has never been convicted of a crime.
Norbert Calder, the club's general manager, accused of allowing prostitution and illegal drug use at the club.
Roy Cicola, a club assistant manager, accused of allowing prostitution at the club.
Reginald Burney, a former Atlanta police officer, accused of tipping off club management about pending city inspections.
Larry Gleit, an accountant accused of credit card fraud, money laundering and obstruction of justice.
Jacklyn Bush, stage name "Diva," accused of prostitution.
All of the defendants have denied the charges and Kaplan is paying for their defense. Kaplan's attorneys have said that he knew nothing about sales of sex or drugs at the club.
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