Judge orders seizure of Desperado’s cabaret in Lafayette

The U.S. government soon may be the proud owner of a shuttered Carencro strip club targeted in a federal investigation of drug dealing and prostitution.

U.S. District Judge Elizabeth Foote this week signed off on the seizure of Desperado’s Gentleman’s Cabaret on Evangeline Thruway.

The club was the subject of a two-year undercover investigation into what prosecutors characterized as an “anything goes” atmosphere where drugs were dealt in the open and dancers routinely met customers for sex in a “VIP” room.

The club has been closed since a December 2012 raid, and 10 people have pleaded guilty in the case, including Desperado’s business partners James Panos and Dipak Vora, a Baton Rouge businessman and chemical engineer.

Foote ordered the forfeiture of the club to the government Tuesday and ordered Vora to hand over $500,000, the amount prosecutors said he received in weekly and bi-weekly payments from the operation of the business.

Panos, as part of his plea, agreed to forfeit about $15,000 and 10 guns seized during a search of his home in Le Triomphe, a gated golf community in southern Lafayette Parish.

The strip club has a market value of $445,000, according to the Lafayette Parish Assessor’s Office.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office declined to comment Wednesday on plans for the site, but seized properties are generally sold at auction.

The forfeiture will not be finalized until after federal officials confirm that no third parties have a legal claim to the club or the property where it sits.

The federal probe of Desperado’s also netted a guilty plea from Panos’ wife, Jennifer Panos, and six others, including dancers and customers.

All 10 defendants are set to be sentenced on Aug. 7.