News Column

Two more men allege bogus credit-card swipes by sex-themed Key West adult entertainment club

May 21, 2014

By Larry Kahn, Florida Keys Keynoter, (Marathon, Fla.)

May 21--Two more men say a Key West adult, sex-themed business severely overcharged them on their credit cards Saturday -- the latest in a long string of similar incidents reported to city police.

But police and the Monroe County State Attorney's Office say that while on the surface such behavior appears criminal, it's not.

"When someone hands over their credit card and/or [personal identification number] in the expectation of services, there is an indication of an agreement between the two parties," Key West police spokeswoman Alyson Crean said. "What that agreement is is what is disputed in these cases. This breach of agreement is what makes these cases civil as opposed to criminal."

"There have been signed credit slips. From what we saw, each one of those charges has been signed for," said Chris Weber, chief investigator for the State Attorney's Office. "You signed for it."

However, he also said there is a "definite issue" with the Adult Entertainment Club, formerly the Scrub Club, at 1221 Duval St.

That's obvious. When KeysInfoNet first reported on the issue, it found that police had been called to the club 301 times by upset customers from Jan. 1, 2011, to Feb. 4, 2013. That's an average of a call to the club every 2.5 days.

Club representatives did not return a phone call seeking comment.

In one of the latest incidents, German national Thomas Nitche, 29, called police Saturday. He told Officer Todd Stevens that he went to the Adult Entertainment Club "to partake in a sex show," negotiated to pay $180 for it and was taken into a room.

While there, a woman around 20 to 25 years old took his credit card because, she said, he had to tip the girls. He said that after the show, "which was very short in duration," he was asked to leave. It is not clear what happens at such shows.

After leaving, he checked his credit card statement and saw an additional $3,600 charged to the card that "he had not authorized." He went back to the club to dispute the charge but was told to leave. That's when he called the cops.

Stevens showed up and interviewed the club's manager, Russell Hiott, and one of the girls, Raquel Kelley. Kelley said she didn't recognize Nitche, and Hiott didn't shed any light on the situation, according to Stevens' report.

The same day, basically the same thing happened to Justin Thompson, 33, of Webster, Texas.

He told Stevens that he went to the club, spoke with a girl 20 to 25 years old and negotiated to pay $300 for a sex show. The girl took him to a room on his expectation they would have sex, and took his credit card.

After the show, which Stevens wrote in a report was "very short in duration," Thompson left the club and later discovered $995 above the $300 was charged to his card.

Stevens questioned Hiott and Kelley. Kelley said she watched Thompson sign credit slips and "give a thumb-print for all transactions." Hiott, once again, had little to say.

On May 13, a tourist from Virginia told police the Adult Entertainment Club overcharged him $645 above the $20 he initially paid. In April, another Virginia man said he was overcharged by $33,000.

Chief Assistant State Attorney Manny Madruga said he doesn't believe all of the alleged scam victims are calling police. Many of them could be married, he said, and "so you eat the $500 or whatever and learn from it."

A call to the Adult Entertainment Club to speak with owner Jerry Andrews -- whom Madruga successfully prosecuted on 12 felony counts of credit-card-related fraud in 1999 -- wasn't returned.

Andrews, also convicted of running a house of prostitution in 1999 in Seminole County, served a year in prison.


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Source: Florida Keys Keynoter (Marathon, FL)

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