Undercover deputies spent about $26,000 during their yearlong investigation into prostitution at a Greenville County strip club, Sheriff Steve Loftis said Thursday in his first public comments on the high-profile case.
All of the money spent came from drug-seizure funds, money that Loftis did not consider taxpayer money. He described Platinum Plus as a “stain” on the community.
The investigation yielded 69 arrest warrants, including 68 for either prostitution or exposure of private parts in a lewd lascivious manner.
“As the Sheriff of Greenville County, I am not going to allow a business in our county to act as public brothel,” Loftis said, adding that authorities had arrested 16 individuals in connection with the investigation and were looking for four others.
Judge Charles Simmons granted a temporary injunction this week after 13th Circuit Solicitor Walt Wilkins sought to shutter the business through the public nuisance statute.
The Sheriff’s Office has responded to Platinum Plus 1,091 times in the past 10 years and 282 times since 2012, Loftis said. Several were violent incidents, he said, including three death investigations since 2003.
The violent incidents, the calls-for-service history and the numerous complaints about prostitution and other illegal activity led to the latest undercover investigation, Loftis said.
“This was a large-scale investigation that was very sensitive due to prior failed attempts,” he said.
Undercover officers spent the first several months of the investigation learning about how Platinum Plus operated, Wilkins said. The majority of the undercover activity that led to arrests happened in the last few months.
Loftis said patrons gained access to the Champagne Room by purchasing bottles of champagne that cost at least $300 and then negotiated a price for the attention of the dancer, which cost hundreds of dollars more.
Loftis said one particular kind of champagne cost $400 at the nightclub, but can be purchased for $62 at a beer or wine store.
“Once you add in the cover charge, tips and drinks, one can easily spend $1,000 in one night with no problem,” Loftis said.
Undercover officers spent an average of at least $1,000 and up to $2,000 per visit, according to the affidavit of Kevin Ford, the director of Ken Wood Enterprises, which manages Elephant Inc. The defendants also alleged in court documents that the undercover officers tipped $20-$60 when the waitresses brought them drinks.
Loftis said the tips actually ranged between $2-$6. Wilkins said the amount of money spent was necessary to make a case, because he must be able to show that it was an illegal “commercial transaction.”
The defendants in court documents accused the undercover officers of enticing the dancers to commit illegal acts. Wilkins denied the accusation, saying the transactions for sex acts were part of an established business model for Platinum Plus.
“There’s zero evidence and we will vehemently debate the fact that they intentionally intoxicated exotic dancers or others to get them to engage in lascivious acts,” said Wilkins, who repeatedly described Platinum Plus as a “house of prostitution.”
Loftis said it is the duty of the Sheriff’s Office to investigate any illegal activity that is reported. He also said deputies have received complaints about other strip clubs in the area.
“We have investigated those strip clubs and none of them come anywhere close to the gross activity that occurred at Platinum Plus,” Loftis said. “As sheriff of Greenville County, my deputies will continue to check those other strip clubs on a regular basis.”