Carencro club raided in 2012
LAFAYETTE — Two more defendants pleaded guilty Monday in federal court to selling cocaine and other illegal drugs inside Desperado’s Gentlemen’s Cabaret where prosecutors claim drug use and prostitution ran rampant until police raided the Carencro strip club almost a year ago.
Tanja Clavier, 28, and Lydia Gauthreaux, 31, each pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to maintain a drug-involved premises, or as Clavier told U.S. Magistrate Judge Pat Hanna, “I’m pleading guilty to selling cocaine.”
Clavier, Gauthreaux and eight others, including club owner James Panos and his wife, Jennifer, were charged in a superseding indictment in May.
Clavier, Gauthreaux, and five other Desperado’s employees were charged with one count of drug conspiracy. Two of those employes, Elias White and Crystal Sampy, pleaded guilty earlier this year. Another employee, Gerald Cormier, opted out of pleading guilty during a scheduled hearing earlier this year.
Clavier, Gauthreaux, White and Sampy are scheduled to be sentenced June 11.
The maximum sentence for the charge is up to 20 years in federal prison and a $500,000 fine, though the sentences are likely to be far less severe because of the pleas and cooperation they’re giving prosecutors with the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
In reading the plea terms, Hanna recounted the environment at Desperado’s before it closed, and Clavier and Gauthreaux agreed: Woman danced totally nude in the club’s VIP room where the girls contributed $25 and clients gave $75 to the house for a prostitution session in the closed door room. Desperado’s supplied the condoms.
Clavier and Gauthreaux also agreed that illegal drug sales of Loritab, Hydrocodone, Valium and cocaine were commonplace, and that employees also used them.
Gauthreaux was hired by Jennifer Panos in December 2008 as a bartender, according to the plea agreement, and at one point was inhaling two grams of cocaine per work shift. She quit working at the club in November 2012.
Clavier, also hired by Jennifer Panos, started work as a waitress in 2008, working the 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. shift. She danced nude for selected customers and sold drugs to customers who wanted them and undercover agents who requested them.
The trial in U.S. District Court had been set for Dec. 9, but Judge Elizabeth Foote in September reset the trial for May 12 at the request of federal prosecutor Myers P. Namie.
Panos, his wife, Baton Rouge businessman Dipak Vora and three former employees remain charged. They were not in Lafayette U.S. District Court on Monday for the plea hearing.
Panos faces three felony charges, including racketeering and possession of illegal weapons. Jennifer Panos is charged with racketeering and drug conspiracy. Vora, who allegedly was the landlord who owned the Desperado’s building on Interstate 49 in Carencro, is charged with one count of racketeering.
Desperado’s was closed in a Dec. 5, 2012, raid by federal and local drug police after a lengthy undercover operation.