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Posted at 12:37 PM ET, 05/22/2012

Owners, managers of seven Pr. George’s night clubs indicted in broad tax and licensing crackdown

The owners or operators of seven Prince George’s County night clubs were indicted Tuesday on a litany of tax, alcohol and licensing violations in what prosecutors say is catch-all crackdown on business that bring violence to the county and don’t follow its laws.

In total, 16 people associated with the clubs were indicted on charges including failure to file sales and use tax returns, selling alcohol without a license and — in cases where prosecutors believe they can prove the most substantial tax violations — felony theft. Prosecutors said that together, the clubs owed more than $700,000 to the state.

“The whole point of this is to get them compliant,” Prince George’s State’s Attorney Angela Alsobrooks said of the indictments. “It it’s taxes or if it’s violence, whatever it is, it’s preventing them from hurting the community.”

Authorities identified the clubs which had owners and managers charged as Puzzles Event Center on St. Barnabas Road in Suitland; De La Swan Event Atrium on Ardwick Ardmore Road in Hyattsville; Let’s Chat on St. Barnabas Road in Suitland; Crossroads on Baltimore Avenue in Bladensburg; Plaza 23 on St. Barnabas Road in Temple Hills; Black Amethyst on Raleigh Road in Temple Hills; and the CFE Club on Marlboro Pike in Forestville. The CFE had already closed last year related to a use and occupancy permit violation, and Black Amethyst closed earlier this year after police served a search warrant there investigating a similar problem, authorities said. The other five clubs remain open, authorities said.

The indictments are the latest salvo in Prince George’s officials’ crackdown on nightclubs, which they have blamed for some of the violence that has plagued the county. Last year, county council members passed an emergency bill giving police and other officials broad authority to shutter so-called “dance halls” should they be deemed a threat to public safety. Police and environmental resources officials promptly used the new law to close a Capitol Heights nightclub where a 20-year-old woman was fatally shot. Two men involved in operating the club were eventually convicted of misdemeanor charges of allowing dancing without the proper permit.

Though the latest indictments are not explicitly for public safety violations, officials said they are part of an effort to make the clubs behave in more responsible ways that would reduce violence. Officials said they believe their recent scrutiny of clubs has helped spur a 40-percent drop in homicides this year compared to the same time period last year.

By  |  12:37 PM ET, 05/22/2012

Categories:  Matt Zapotosky, Pr. George's, From the Courthouse

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