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Immigration rights group says LAPD violated policy in vice raid on 'hostess club'

Los Angeles police are defending their handling of a raid at a downtown hostess club -- an operation that resulted in dozens of arrests of illegal immigrant workers -- after an advocacy group charged that the vice operation violated Special Order 40, a policy governing how officers interact with immigrants.

Advocates from the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles said the LAPD officers violated that policy in arresting 81 women and seven men Friday at the 907 Club on Hill Street. The advocacy group said most of those arrested were "honest, hard-working immigrants" who might themselves have been victims of abuse.

"The LAPD has acted rashly by arresting those it claims to protect and in the process endanger the delicate balance between local policing and immigration enforcement," CHIRLA director Angelica Salas said in a statement.

Special Order 40 prohibits LAPD officers from initiating contact with someone solely to determine whether they are in the country legally. But in a statement released Wednesday, the LAPD said the four-month probe was only related to alleged criminal conduct and was not an immigration investigation.

"It is strictly an investigation into labor code violations, human trafficking concerns, prostitution, possession of fraudulent California identification cards, gambling and violation of a conditional use permit," the department said.

Club 907, like similar "hostess club" establishments, is regulated by the Los Angeles Police Commission. Patrons pay women who work at the clubs for time and companionship that includes talking, buying non-alcoholic drinks or dancing. The club charges $30 per hour, with discounts on certain days of the week.

The Police Commission permit prohibits hostess clubs from serving alcohol and does not allow nudity or other adult entertainment. But the LAPD said that during a four-month investigation their officers witnessed or found evidence of prostitution, lewd conduct, gambling and the use of counterfeit identification.

Police said that on the day of the arrests, they found more than 400 people inside the 907 Club, which had a maximum capacity of 250 patrons.

Officers said they found dozens of female dancers employed by the club with false identification for purposes of employment and found evidence that most were engaging in prostitution. Some 88 people were arrested -- 81 of them women. Only three were arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to commit prostitution: a club manager, and two women who were brought in to dance in bikinis and were allowed to be groped by patrons, police said.

Of the others, 59 were arrested on suspicion of possession of fraudulent California identification, 18 for willfully obtaining personal information, four for gambling violations, two for misdemeanor warrants, one for interfering with police operations and one for violating the club's conditional use permits.

A 17-year-old girl who had been reported missing was found inside and was also arrested on suspicion of possessing false identification. Police also seized two bags of cocaine, over $100,000 in cash, condoms, and liquor.

A 29-year-old club worker who was out on bail Wednesday after her arrest on suspicion of possessing fraudulent identification said that while the women were detained inside the club, officers asked those with “good ID” to step forward and separated them from the others. She believed that officers were trying to determine the workers' immigration status.

The worker, who asked that her name not be used, said that she obtained false documents at the request of club management, who would direct workers to go to MacArthur Park to get identification.

LAPD officials said that during the operation, officers separated those who were patrons from those determined to be employees and management of the club.  The patrons were released.  The employees and management were taken to the LAPD’s Central Area station. 

Police said the detainees were separated because those possessing fraudulent identification had committed a crime and would be arrested. They said it had nothing to do with immigration. 

All employees who had valid identification were detained and released after booking, the LAPD said.  Those who had fraudulent or no identification were subject to questioning by the LAPD and agents with federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

ICE agents were already conducting their own investigation into the potential federal violations involving the creation and use of fraudulent identifications to gain employment status, the LAPD said.

Immigration officials later determined that 75 of the arrestees were in the country illegally. ICE spokeswoman Lori Haley said Wednesday that none of them were in ICE custody.

But immigration rights advocates pointed to the arrests for false documentation or identity theft as evidence that the LAPD was most interested in the immigration status of the suspects.

CHIRLA spokesman Jorge-Mario Cabrera said the approximately 20 club workers the organization had spoken to typically worked 10 hours a day six or seven days a week. They were required to pay money out of pocket to the club if they worked less than 20 hours a week and forced to buy drinking water from the club while on shift.

"The potential victims were instead charged with a serious crime, a felony, and were turned over to immigration," Cabrera said.

According to a statement from Immigration and Customs Enforcement, federal agents were not part of the raid at the club, but became involved to investigate whether federal crimes had been committed, including victimization of female employees. State labor investigators were also involved in the operation, according to police.

Officials said they have found no evidence of human trafficking at the club to date. Immigration attorney Jessica Dominguez, who is representing many of the club workers, said some may be eligible for a U visa, which gives temporary legal status to victims of crimes who cooperate with authorities in prosecuting the crime.

Roger Jon Diamond, an attorney representing Goliath Inc., the corporation that owns the club, said he was not aware of any allegations that management had asked employees to obtain false documents. The owners are currently investigating whether there was any wrongdoing by mid-level management employees, he said.

 "There have been no accusations of wrongdoing [against the owner], no charges, nothing has been filed, and we ask the public to wait for the investigation to be concluded," he said. "And if anybody wants to dance with a hostess, they’re free to go to the club and dance."

 -- Abby Sewell and Andrew Blankstein

Comments () | Archives (46)

The police arrested people for engaging in illegal activity connected to prostitution, gambling, and illegal alcohol sales. It sounds like they conducted a thorough investigation and carried out arrests in a professional matter. So, what are these "activists" attacking the police for? It sounds like the activists want anyone in their community to get a free pass - to be able to engage in any illegal behavior they wish. So much for the activists really caring about civil rights, equal protection, and justice. They are just another special-interest group who think they should be treated BETTER than everyone else. Give me a break.

Angelica Salas is hilarious. Condoms, $100k of cocaine and false id's up the wazoo and LAPD is the culprit?

Please put back on your clown outfit and go back to the Circus.

It is a crime to be in the country illegally, as well as it is a crime to be engaging in the type of activity that was occurring at this club. Good job LAPD and ICE.

It just makes so much sense, arrest the "illegals" but let the business owners walk away. GOP sense.

"Officers said they found dozens of female dancers employed by the club with false identification for purposes of employment and found evidence that most were engaging in prostitution." "Police also seized two bags of cocaine, over $100,000 in cash, condoms, and liquor."

"The potential victims were instead charged with a serious crime, a felony, and were turned over to immigration," Cabrera said.

Enough already. http://www.numbersusa.com/

CHIRLA Protecting illegal aliens. Illegal alien advocates want NO enforcement of any kind against illegals, no matter how many crimes they commit. ICE and any police force should be able to prosecute illegals when found. This is why Americans have no respect for illegals. DEPORT THEM ALL!

"honest, hard-working immigrants"

I'm confused. Most of these people entered the country illegally, used false identification to dishonestly claim legal status, and worked in a club that calls itself a hostess club while actually being a front for prostitution. This is honest? Hard-working? Perhaps, but since most of them aren't supposed to be in this country, much less working in it, and the work they were doing was illegal, I'm not sure how that's relevant. A lot of drug dealers work hard, too.

Since illegal aliens have their own advocacy groups, why aren't other criminals following this trend? Where's the burglar's advocacy group? What about an advocacy group for poor, misunderstood serial rapists who just come to Los Angeles looking for a better life? Where's the love for them? The fact that some criminals (i.e.--illegal immigrants) get political advocacy and others don't is shameful. We as a society must celebrate diversity, embrace hope, and form government-subsidized advocacy groups for ALL criminal groups.

Si se puede!

"Immigration attorney Jessica Dominguez, who is representing many of the club workers, said some may be eligible for a U visa, which gives temporary legal status to victims of crimes who cooperate with authorities in prosecuting the crime."

So JD will have a vested interest in alleging human trafficking and abuse to secure visas for her clients. To do so she will be in conflict with "Roger Jon Diamond, an attorney representing Goliath Inc., the corporation that owns the club" and "CHIRLA director Angelica Salas" who said there was no reason to raid the place.

Should be a story with legs.

What about the Americans who's ID they were fraudulently using? Are the ones who illegally obtained IDs going to be let go without punishment? What about the people in McArthur Park who are giving out those fraudulent IDs? Is anything going to be done to stop them from doing so? It's not fair to the hard working Americans and those who went through the proper channels to immigrate here. Forget what the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles and Mr. Cabrera think, they could care less about us. Sounds like all they're interested in is making sure these people are not punished despite their crime.

Why do these dumb Coalition always react in denial and pretend they care about the people who are committing crimes. WE are sick and tired of these organizations blaming our Police Officers and consistently making excuses for crimes the people in the Club were doing. Latinos legally born in this city are tired of the crimes illegals are committing like Identity Theft, driving with fraudulent license, illegal vending

That's just the tip of the iceberg. That's just in one night and in one club. These clubs have been operating since the 1970's...lots of cash as no CCs are accepted. There's probably very little sex inside the club other than groping and stuff, but that is where you close the deal and hook up after closing. There's always alcohol inside smuggled in by mostly customers and even employees. And yes most girls are undocumented, obviously. Easy place for sex and drugs and anything else. These clubs have a Tijuana style atmosphere in the middle of Los Angeles.

They committed a crime! What are all these immigrant rights workers yapping about?! Deport or lock 'em up, including the club owners for employing them.

This story reeks of human trafficking. Human trafficking is the most disgusting thing plaguing the world today and gets far too little media attention.

This sounds to me like good police work.

Thank you LAPD.

Here illegally? Send them home en masse.

Wow, I thought I heard it all a little earlier, but this one is it. A person comes into the country illegally, falsify documents, possibly steals the identity of an American citizen, prostitute themselves, and some advocacy group feels like their rights are violated? Are you kidding me? Don't these organizations have any ethical positions to stand on. I understand attorney's will represent anyone, Gloria A. has already proven that to be the case.

Its not just funny, its outrageous

deport them all. Good job law enforcment!

Now, I see why Mexico is in the trouble its in, these people think the rules do not apply to them.

Great job rounding up these money concealing, drug dealing, identity stealing, prostituting illegal aliens. Sent them to jail, and than home.

Slum attorneys and organizations should go with them

Glad to hear anything is still available at MacArthur Park. The General must be so proud.

Was going to comment, but everyone already said what I was thinking.

The only other question left to answer is, why is the LA Times printing this garbage, giving these extremist advocacy groups the face time?

its about time...most of the predators and sleaze merchants in the slums of LA are like these "HARD WORKING" ILLEGALS...they work hard to break the law...they broke the law by entering this country, they break the law by obtaining false documents, they break the law by engaging in the use and distribution of drugs and prostitution...let alone underage prostitution...when will we have enough and clean this filth up...SEND THEM BACK TO MEXICO!!!

Angelica Salas you need to allocate your time better!
This Place not only deals in drug and prostitution but also panders to pedophiles The fact that one of the girls was 17 is an outrage the patrons and the owners of this place should be locked up for good!!
And you Angelica Salas need to find better causes to advocate or get a new job!!

Change SO40 to SB1070

Last I checked, "Special Order 40" has been responsible for more than a few deaths at the hands of people that shouldn't have been in the country to begin with. It's a travesty & a joke.

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