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Strip Club Tied to Bribery Probe Loses Its Permit

San Diego vice squad rejects renewal after owner pleads guilty to attempted bribe of councilmen to loosen rules on nude dancing.

November 25, 2003|Tony Perry | Times Staff Writer

SAN DIEGO — The Police Department's vice squad has revoked the operating permit for a nude entertainment club at the center of a City Hall bribery scandal.

Lt. Robert Hurt said Monday that the renewal permit for Cheetahs Totally Nude Club was rejected because of the criminal case involving the club's owner, Michael Galardi.

Galardi, 41, of Las Vegas, has pleaded guilty to attempting to bribe three City Council members and an undercover police officer to get the city to loosen its restrictions on nude dancing. Galardi and his father run a string of strip clubs across the country.

Charges also are pending against Galardi in Las Vegas, accusing him of trying to bribe officials there. Las Vegas officials also are seeking to revoke Galardi's license to run a strip club in the gambling mecca.

In San Diego, Galardi has until Dec. 8 to appeal Hurt's decision to reject his license renewal. The appeal would be decided by the Police Department and City Atty. Casey Gwinn.

Hurt said that an attempt to pass the license to a Cheetahs employee or someone associated with Cheetahs would be scrutinized. "Given the history of the place itself, that would be taken into account," he said.

A manager at Cheetahs declined to comment.

Councilmen Ralph Inzunza, Charles Lewis and Michael Zucchet have pleaded innocent to charges of receiving bribes.

Lance Malone, a lobbyist for Galardi, also has pleaded innocent to charges that he acted as go-between.

But a night manager for Cheetahs, John D'Intino, has pleaded guilty to delivering payments of approximately $40,000 to an undercover officer. Galardi and D'Intino have agreed to assist federal prosecutors; neither has been sentenced.

Cheetahs, located on Clairemont Mesa Boulevard -- one of the city's busiest commercial thoroughfares -- is one of 18 nude entertainment clubs in San Diego.

Under city licenses, nude dancers must keep at least 6 feet away from patrons. To seek gratuities, dancers must wear at least pasties and a G-string, which club owners and dancers insist reduces the willingness of patrons to provide tips.

The indictments, unveiled Aug. 28, came after a three-year FBI investigation involving wiretaps, informants and a raid on City Hall offices.

The council members say that contributions they received from Galardi and his associates were legitimate political donations, and that no favors were promised.

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