Uproar leads to Miami Beach strip club’s closing

01/10/2014 6:19 PM

01/11/2014 11:12 AM

The fully nude Miami Beach strip club where police say a 13-year-old girl danced for money until recently has had its business license pulled for six months while law enforcement investigates the case.

City Manager Jimmy Morales said he revoked Club Madonna’s business tax receipt and certificate of use for six months because he said the establishment poses “an actual threat to the health, welfare and safety of our community.”

“As the father of a daughter, I firmly believe that this is the right thing to do,” he said at a news conference Friday night.

The emergency order was handed to a club manager by Miami Beach police just as the venue was getting ready to open its doors Friday night. Instead, the lights on the outside marquee stayed dim and the telephone at the club rang unanswered.

Richard Wolfe, an attorney for Club Madonna, called the city’s actions “overreaching.”

“We will prove that there was no basis for the city to take the actions that they took,” Wolfe said.

Police on Monday arrested three people on charges that they forced a runaway teen to prostitute herself and later to dance under the name Peaches at Club Madonna on Washington Avenue.

Club owner Leroy Griffith and his attorney have said they had no knowledge that the girl performed at Madonna.

“If it is so easy for human traffickers to kidnap a 13-year-old girl and bring her to the club without anyone noticing, how can we be sure that this is not going to happen again to other young girls in our community?” Morales asked at the news conference.

Wolfe, the Madonna attorney, suggested that the city’s actions were retaliatory. Club owner Leroy Griffith has been locked in a decade-long battle with City Hall to overturn a ban on alcohol in fully nude clubs such as his.

Griffith has ruffled plenty of political feathers in his years of legal wrangling. He has claimed he was extorted by the city and accused one commissioner of not reporting his campaign contributions.

“They shut down our business in a vindictive manner,” Wolfe said.

Miami and Miami Beach Police are working with the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Human Trafficking Task Force on the case of the 13-year-old stripper.

Club management and ownership so far has not been criminally charged.

The three individuals who were busted are Vilbert Jean, 37, Marlene San Vincente, 22, and DeWayne Ward, 18. They face charges of human trafficking, lewd and lascivious conduct on a person under 16, delivering a controlled substance to a person under 18 and contributing to the delinquency of a minor.

Jean and San Vincente were mistakenly let out of jail on bond, although they face non-bondable charges. They were returned to jail a day after being released.

According to arrest reports and a search warrant:

A teen identified only as D.J. ran away from home on Dec. 10. Her mom told police she habitually left home and she didn’t have a picture of her own daughter to provide to law enforcement when D.J. went missing.

D.J. made her way to a North Miami hotel and was soon picked up by a man known only as AP.

AP brought D.J. to a Miami home, where Jean, San Vincente and Ward lived. The three demanded D.J. pay to stay with them.

One time, AP brought a man over and D.J. agreed to have sex with the man for $80. But the girl refused to prostitute herself after that, so San Vincente arranged for D.J. to work with her at Club Madonna.

“The minor victim was never asked, nor did she ever provide the Madonna club management any identification to verify her age,” police wrote.

San Vincente “tutored” the girl on how to work the exotic club scene.

D.J.’s pimps took all the money she earned — as much as $500 in one night. Police say the girl danced at least five nights.

She knew that Jean kept an AK 47 assault rifle in a pile of clothes in his bedroom, and Ward once showed her a .40 caliber pistol and warned he would “get her” if she “got away.”

D.J. also told police that Jean and Ward dealt cocaine and had refrigerators full of marijuana.

D.J.’s mom found her on Jan. 6 in the area of North Miami Avenue and 55th Street.

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