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Strip Club Owner Pleads Guilty

August 2, 2001

ATLANTA (AP) _ A strip club owner accused of cheating customers and paying dancers to have sex with celebrities pleaded guilty to one count of racketeering Thursday, agreeing to pay a $5 million fine and to serve a three- to five-year prison sentence.

Steve Kaplan also agreed to give up the Gold Club, the most profitable strip club in the nation.

Kaplan will have a formal sentencing hearing later. He had faced 195 years in prison if convicted on all charges.

No other plea agreements were announced, but sources speaking on condition of anonymity had told The Associated Press that four of the remaining defendants would plead guilty.

Kaplan and six others were charged with obstruction, credit card fraud, loan sharking, prostitution and other charges.

The 14-week trial was halted Wednesday as lawyers discussed the plea agreements. It was not immediately if the trial would go on for any defendants who did not plead guilty.

Witnesses have described Kaplan as a starstruck profiteer who felt that having celebrities in the club would raise its profile and help business.

NBA star Patrick Ewing and Atlanta Braves outfielder Andruw Jones testified about receiving sexual favors from dancers. Each athlete said he did not pay the strippers, but other witnesses testified that Kaplan paid the women.

Some customers have testified that they were unfairly charged exorbitant amounts on their credit cards after spending time in the club’s VIP rooms.

Defense attorneys said the sex with celebrities was consensual and that many of the customers signed credit card receipts and only challenged the charges later because they were embarrassed about spending so much at the club.

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On the Net:

U.S. attorney’s office: http://www.usdoj.gov/usao/gan/pressarctext.html

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