Operation: Last Call-State indicts 61 people on drug and prostitution charges at strip clubs - Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Operation: Last Call-State indicts 61 people on drug and prostitution charges at strip clubs

Though Operation Last Call put the padlocks on the Platinum Plus and Tunica Cabaret strip clubs, some worry the law can't keep them closed.

"I think we have some pretty good state laws to address the problem, some darn good federal laws to address the problem. I hope that the City Council will look at improving the city ordinance," says Shelby County District Attorney Bill Gibbons.

That could happen if Eric Kelly of Duncan Associates has his way.

"We visited most of the adult businesses in Memphis two or three times each over the last several months," says Kelly.

He sat down with Action News 5's Kontji Anthony before presenting his findings to the Memphis City Council and Shelby County Commission.

Kelly found the same violations undercover investigators saw.

Court documents show Platinum Plus "actively hosted live-sex shows.

Kelly adds, "Customers would actually get up on the stage and engage in fairly extensive sexual touching with the dancers on stage or two dancers with each other."

Court documents also show one dancer telling undercover cops that strip club owner Ralph Lunati pays fines and attorney fees for dancers busted for lewd conduct.

"We also saw lots of bottomless dancing which violates city ordinance," says Kelly.

At one point, undercover officers described a live-sex show involving two four-hundred pound dancers.

"There's actually Tennessee case law saying the kind of activity we saw meets the Tennessee definition of prostitution," says Kelly.

If council members and commissioners allow it, Kelly's firm will help draft new city ordinances.

In a joint news conference this morning, state and federal officials announced 80 indictments of 61 defendants.

"It's been a very long and hard operation, but one that's been successful for our community," says U.S. Attorney David Kustoff.

"Operation Last Call" involved undercover officers who worked both Platinum Plus and the Tunica Caberet on South Third for two years.

Patrons and employees alike appeared surprised early Saturday morning. That's when some 200 agents and officers pounced on Platinum Plus. Chains were put on the front door where officials hope they will remain.

"It surprised me," says MPD Director Larry Godwin. "And I've seen everything," he adds. "I was just totally taken aback by the activities going on in these clubs," he says.

The management at Platinum Plus put up signs warning patrons that prostitution and illegal drug sales would not be tolerated.

Law enforcement officials say management itself ignored these crimes.

"The criminal acts continued to be conducted with a taunting arrogance toward law enforcement," says District Attorney General Bill Gibbons.

They say Platinum Plus in particular became consumed by its own greed. Now, the government is working to seize both the building and land to keep a strip club from opening here ever again.

Ralph Lunati is owner of Platinum Plus and part-owner of Tunica Caberet. Lunati was not charged, say officials.  However, their investigation - they say - is ongoing and they are still moving to seize all of Lunati's personal effects.

Action News 5's attempts to talk to Lunati and his attorney were unsuccessful.

Stay tuned to WMCTV.COM and Action News 5 for updates on this story. 

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