Lafayette club owner wants guns returned

The owner of a Carencro strip club raided in December in a drugs and prostitution investigation has filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court seeking the return of firearms seized from his home by federal agents.

James “Jim” Panos, 54, owner of the now-closed Desperado’s Gentleman’s Cabaret, says in court papers that Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agents “illegally seized” the weapons Dec. 5.

Panos says he wants the ATF to return the guns.

“Unless they claim they (the guns) are evidence in some crime, he would like them back before a trial,” Scott Iles, attorney for Panos in both the criminal and civil proceedings, said Wednesday.

“They weren’t in the club, certainly they were never used,” Iles said. “He’s never shot these guns. They are collectors items.”

In court papers, Panos lists the weapons seized by ATF agents: three rifles with values ranging from $1,995 to $2,995 each, two handguns valued at $1,995 and $2,295, and a shotgun worth $1,995.

Federal agents in December searched Desperado’s on Interstate 49 north of Lafayette and Panos’ home in upscale Le Triomphe in Broussard after a two-year undercover investigation.

The case file has been sealed from public view, and U.S. Attorney Stephanie Finley declined to comment on any details of the federal investigation.

But state court documents indicate that at least four others, including a club employee, Heather Marie Kelley, 28, were booked on drug and prostitution counts following the raid by state and federal authorities at the Evangeline Thruway club.

The arrests included University of Louisiana at Lafayette journalism professor Tyrone Leman Adams, 44, who was booked on a prostitution charge, according to affidavit filed to support his arrest.

Panos filed the lawsuit Jan. 31 seeking the return of the guns.

Iles said the ATF found the guns in a display case at Panos’ home during the search.

Panos’ complaint states that agents found three of the weapons in Panos’ home “that were supposedly stolen property.”

In the document Panos does not argue whether the three guns were stolen, but he claims that if they were, he bought them in a “private sale” and didn’t know they were stolen.

Panos said he would not protest “the return of such property to its rightful owner,” the document states.

“However, most of the weapons and arms that were taken from Mr. Panos’ property are personal collector items acquired over the years by Mr. Panos,” the document states.

Panos states that he has Fifth Amendment and Second Amendment rights to own the guns.

Federal agents said in early December that the raid on Desperado’s and the arrests of Panos and others came after a two-year investigation of the strip club. The club’s liquor license has been suspended and the federal government is trying to seize the property.

Panos was indicted in December on one count of conspiracy to distribute drugs.

He remains free on a $50,000 bond.

In the civil complaint filed last week, Panos lists a third handgun confiscated by agents. The serial number on the handgun had been obliterated, and Panos says that he lays no claim to the weapon.