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Feds Bust Mob-Run Strip Club Trafficking Ring

By Ben Fractenberg | November 30, 2011 7:23pm
Twenty men were arrested for bringing Eastern European women to the United States to work in area strip clubs.
Twenty men were arrested for bringing Eastern European women to the United States to work in area strip clubs.
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Daniel Barry/Getty Images

MANHATTAN — Federal authorities busted a mobbed-up human trafficking ring that illegally ferried Eastern European women into the country to work at strip clubs, including Cheetahs in Times Square, prosecutors said Wednesday.

The suspects allegedly helped the women enter the country by obtaining visas and entering them into sham marriages. They then had them work in adult entertainment clubs, some of which were controlled by the Gambino and Bonanno crime families, officials said.

One of the clubs where the women worked was Cheetahs, at 252 W. 43rd St., near Times Square, which boasts the "country's only Charlie Sheen Room" and also offers a "Body Sushi Gallery," according to WABC/Channel 7.

The club made headlines in February when several dancers tried to shovel snow in Times Square while topless.

“As alleged, the schemes in which these defendants participated ran the gamut of criminal activity — from racketeering and extortion, to immigration and marriage fraud," said Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara.

"And the defendants themselves had one thing in common — the desire to turn the women they allegedly helped enter this country illegally into their personal profit centers. Today’s arrests have brought an end to their illicit activities.”

Seven of the 20 arrested had ties to organized crime and were charged with racketeering and extortion for allegedly shaking down strip clubs in Queens and Long Island in exchange for protection.

Those men, along with 13 other defendants, were also charged with other crimes, including visa fraud, marriage fraud and transporting, harboring and inducing the entry of illegal aliens.

Defendants Alphonse Trucchio, William Pazienza, Sr., Christopher Colon and Richard Gutkowski were purported members or associates of the Gambino family, prosecutors said.

Anthony Frascone, Paul Casella, and Lawrence Zaino allegedly belonged to the Bonnanos.

Cheetahs did not not immediately respond to calls and emails for comment.