LAFAYETTE — Federal prosecutors are seeking to seize Desperado’s Gentlemen’s Cabaret as part of the case against the Carencro strip club’s owner, who was arrested earlier this month in an investigation of drugs and prostitution at the business.
James “Jim” Panos, 54, was booked Dec. 5 on a federal complaint charging him with “maintaining drug-involved premises” in connection what federal agents have alleged was open drug dealing by dancers and other employees at the club.
A federal grand jury this week indicted Panos on the charge, and prosecutors have filed notice that if he is convicted, they intend to seize the strip club under federal laws that allow the government to seek the forfeiture of property linked to drug crimes.
A two-year undercover investigation allegedly uncovered open drug dealing and prostitution at the club, according to testimony at a court hearing last week by Karry Falcon, a Lafayette Parish Sheriff’s Office agent who works with a local U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration task force.
He alleged that customers routinely met dancers for sex in a “VIP” room, with the club taking a cut of the payment.
Falcon also testified that agents made at least 30 undercover drug buys from waitresses, dancers and other employees of the strip club, easily obtaining painkillers, marijuana, cocaine and methamphetamine.
Panos’ attorney, Scott Iles disputed whether Panos had direct knowledge of an illegal activity at the club during his questioning of Falcon.
Panos is currently free on a $50,000 unsecured bond, but U.S. Magistrate Judge C. Michael Hill told attorneys in the case at the hearing last week that he might reconsider his decision if Desperado’s reopens.
The state Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control has suspended the club’s liquor license, but a hearing on that suspension is scheduled for Jan. 9.
“The chances of me allowing him to go back to Desperado’s are not high; in fact, they are nil,” Hill said at the time.
Panos is set for arraignment on Jan. 17.