Feds seek to seize closed club

Desperado’s part of drug-sex probe

Federal prosecutors on Tuesday took steps to seize ownership of property associated with the now-closed Desperado’s Gentlemen’s Cabaret north of Lafayette, according to court records.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office filed civil case papers in U.S. District Court that identifies the land and building at 3730 N.E. Evangeline Thruway in Carencro, which was raided by authorities in December in a drug and prostitution investigation.

The Lafayette man who prosecutors have said owned and operated the strip club, 54-year-old James Panos, was indicted Dec. 19 on one count of conspiracy to operate drug-involved premises.

Panos’ attorney, Scott Iles, said Tuesday that Panos does not own the property that prosecutors want to seize.

Iles said the land, building and business is owned by a Baton Rouge company called Diversified Asset Group.

According to the Louisiana Secretary of State’s website, the registered agent and officer for Diversified Asset Group is Dipak Vora, of Baton Rouge.

“My guy (Panos) was the manager of the club,” Iles said.

Iles said Tuesday that he hadn’t yet seen the civil court action, United States of America versus Real Estate and Commercial Structure Located at 3730 N.E. Evangeline Thruway, Carencro, Louisiana, 70520.

Iles said the federal government usually waits until there is a conviction before taking steps to seize property.

“I intend to fight the asset forfeiture just like I intend to fight the pending charge” against Panos, Iles said.

Panos, Iles and prosecutors will have more time to prepare.

On Friday, U.S. District Court Judge Elizabeth Foote granted prosecutors’ request to delay the criminal trial that was to start March 25, documents show. Foote rescheduled the trial for July 29, and set aside three weeks to conduct the proceedings, documents show.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Myers P. Namie in late February asked Foote to delay the trial, citing the complexity of the Panos case and the volume of documents.

Foote wrote that Namie’s request was reasonable.

“The court found that the voluminous nature of the evidence — including the number of witnesses, audio recordings of approximately 25 controlled (drug) buys, approximately 25 boxes of documents, 25 drug samples, and testimony from many of the 30 to 40 employees involved in this case — necessitated a continuance,” Foote wrote.

Also on Friday, Panos and Iles withdrew a request to move the trial to another city.

In seeking a change of venue, Panos in February said media coverage was intense, and often inaccurate ever since Desperado’s was raided in early December.