By Chuck Strouse
By Scott Fishman
By Terrence McCoy
By Ryan Yousefi
By Ciara LaVelle, Kat Bein, Carolina Del Busto, and Liz Tracy
By Pepe Billete
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By Kyle Swenson
Ari Pregen picked the wrong strip club to throw his weight around. First, the Miami-Dade assistant state attorney flashed his badge to avoid a cover and a lap dance surcharge. Then, despite a warning from the club, he pulled the same stunt again a week later.
Now Pregen is out of a job after lying to his bosses about the strip club shenanigans — at least until photo evidence arrived and put the prosecutor out on the street.
Pregen's first strip club power play came January 26, when he got belligerent with the bouncers at downtown strip club Goldrush, demanding he and two friends be allowed in without paying the cover. General manager Jeff Levy explained that only current military get in gratis.
"Mr. Pregen was more persistent and told me that he had not paid for admission fees for years," Levy wrote in a complaint. "Mr. Pregen reached for his wallet and flashed his State Attorney's badge at me."
To avoid making a scene, Levy said he let the trio in free "against [his] better judgment."
Around 1 a.m., Pregen lost his cool again when he used his credit card to pay for lap dances. He was annoyed that Goldrush — like all strip clubs — wanted a 15 percent surcharge. Levy alleges Pregen tried to intimidate the female employee who ran his card, complaining "he is a state attorney and he dares her to charge him." The prosecutor also claimed it was illegal for the club to take his fingerprints (which many clubs do to prevent fraud) because he was a state employee.
Levy told him never to come back. When Pregen returned a week later, again demanding special treatment, Levy had enough. He complained to Attorney General Pam Bondi, who forwarded the complaint to Levy's bosses.
"[I was] highly upset that a person would abuse his power and position as a state attorney, demanding things for free and intimidate the working-class person," Levy wrote. "There is nothing more dangerous than a person who defends the law and then abuses the law and his position for self-gain."
On February 7, three top officials called Pregen in to address the complaint. The prosecutor "denied having engaged in any inappropriate conduct and denied violating any office policies." But then Levy sent a still image of Pregen flashing his badge inside Goldrush. On February 8, for the second time in two days, Pregen denied acting the fool. He was canned soon thereafter.
Before packing up his belongings, Pregen — who didn't return a call from Riptide — tried to salvage his job by penning a sappy, woe-is-me apology.
"I am so sorry for what I have done," he wrote. "I am unbelievably ashamed of myself."
Sorry, Ari, but the Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office did right by canning you. Good luck with your new career as an ambulance chaser.