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By Michael E. Miller
By Ryan Yousefi
By Kyle Munzenrieder
By Sabrina Rodriguez
By Michael E. Miller
By Carlos Suarez De Jesus
By Luther Campbell
By Kyle Munzenrieder
And in August 2008, cops reported to Take One to find two men shot in the parking lot — one, 21-year-old Odane Francis, already dead and shrouded under a blanket placed by security guards, and the other, 31-year-old Tavares Lundy, terminally wounded. Detectives determined that a fight began in the club and then escalated into gunfire outside, but have thus far made no other findings public. "It was drug boys shooting each other up," says Karen Raley, who watched footage of the murder on the club's surveillance screens. "It could have happened anywhere."
The double murder spurred the Miami Police Department to go on the offensive against the club, Karen believes. Within weeks of the shooting, cops raided Take One. They were looking for anything illegal they could sniff out, says the indignant widow. "The same day [as the murder at Take One] there was a shooting at a Bank of America up in Broward County," she says, launching into a familiar refrain. "Did cops bust into that bank the next week and throw customers on the floor and force employees, topless, into the parking lot?"
That first raid came up empty. But police continued to prowl. Forensic investigators opened the club's financial books and subpoenaed bank records. And on August 3, cops rounded up James Wright and Karen Raley and tossed them into jail.
According to police, revenue from strippers — who told investigators they paid $35 to $100 a day to dance for tips — drinks, and door cover fees was concealed. James Wright, whose on-the-books manager's pay hovered around $43,000 annually, had deposited into his bank account $642,945.60, much of it in cash, in the 19 months between January 2007 and July 2008, investigators claimed.
Karen, meanwhile, had paid herself $482,168 in checks during a three-year span between 2005 and 2008. Additionally, she had taken to making regular cash deposits totaling just under $10,000. That's an old launderers' trick, an investigator wrote in an arrest affidavit, "traditionally associated with illegal structuring." During one week in January 2008, she made five four-digit cash deposits into her personal bank account. Four of them were of $9,000 or more. None hit the $10,000 threshold.
In total, police concluded, James and Karen had concealed more than $7 million in income. They owed more than $600,000 in taxes. Karen was charged with a total of 176 felony counts, including racketeering, money laundering, and grand theft. James faced 33 similar charges. They were staring at 5 years in prison per each count.
They both accepted pretrial diversion deals to keep them out of prison, and will be forced to pay restitution. "I let James handle the books," she says, refusing to speak in detail about the case. "Ultimately, that's my responsibility."
James cagily rejects the implication. "It can't be blamed on me," he says in a brief phone interview with New Times before ceasing to pick up a reporter's calls. He explains away the situation with a strangled football metaphor, ending with: "Unless you play ball, you're not going to understand what happens in the NFL."
Relations between the widow and manager were severed after they struck their respective deals in December. Karen offered to sell the club to James. She wanted $6 million, he says, which he calls an "outrageous" figure. (Karen denies her asking price was that high.) As a result, James — and his family members — no longer work at the club, although Karen insists she "never said he was fired."
As a consolation prize, she says, he cleared the club of its sound equipment. James simply headed due west on 79th Street, and is now managing Hialeah Gold Gentleman's Club. "I could go to the police," she kvetches, "but it would just be more crap."
In January of this year, the club was closed for about a week as Karen replaced the sound system and spruced the place up. She remained doggedly optimistic. On the night before reopening, she gathered regular employees in the club to talk about new cash-handling policies and introduce temporary management. Dancers — clothed — drank sodas in Styrofoam cups and Fat Man, the owner of a barbecue truck permanently parked outside of the club, provided ribs. Says Karen: "It was the first time since Bob's death that I was able to step foot there without thinking of it as the place where my husband was killed. When I was driving home, I actually felt really good."
A little more than a week after reopening, North Miami Beach cops were tipped that a fugitive, Carlus Dewayne McKaufman, was at Take One. McKaufman was wanted for duct-taping his girlfriend to a chair and torturing her for three days. The department's "wolf pack task squad," police in unmarked black SUVs, arrived at the club. A bouncer — Travis Warthen, who was working the door despite a rap sheet that includes the display of a weapon while committing a felony — refused to put down his handgun, according to a police report. Officer Juan Dolcine shot the guard, who survived. The shooting was ruled justified. McKaufman, the creep whose rumored presence sparked the altercation, is still on the lam.
But a few days later, Karen was back at the club and as cheery as ever. It was a Monday afternoon and some mellow regulars — one man was wearing hospital scrubs and another was wearing a suit — were sipping drinks and watching a thick dancer slowly gyrate. In the daylight outside, workers were applying the last few brush strokes of a new paint job: Karen was having the place painted lime-green, the way it was when Bob was alive, rather than a somewhat menacing deep purple. "You guys could find out more information about that than I could," Karen responded with a shrug when asked about the officer shooting the security guard.
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How do you open an envelope "officiously"?I guess that you have to take over a club "officially" before you can open the envelope "officiously"
How does one open an envelope officiously?When you officially take over a club, you open an envelope officiously!
Thanks for putting Take One back on the map. Great story and editorial, I love Take One, the place is the best, love the girls and the atmosphere. I will drink to Take Love in a bit love the place.
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"....cops discovered strippers pleasuring themselves with toys and performing oral sex onstage...."
I love the Miami New Times!
Miami New Times is the hoodrat of Miami newspapers... you guys should cover Centro Español next...
nonetheless... entertaining I must say