Moving On Up – Mob Style
Does this house look familiar to you?
If you watched the FoxTV Series “Empire,‘ you probably recognize it. Yes, that is the ‘crib’ of Lucious Lyon played by actor Terrance Howard. The Barrington, Illinois mansion has been listed for as much as $16 million dollars … and has gone to contract recently for only $9million.
Why should Las Vegas strip club fans care about a TV show’s backdrop?
Why should Las Vegas strip club fans care about a TV show’s backdrop? Well, perhaps some of you paid for it along the way.
If you ever stumbled into the old Club Paradise near the airport, or ever tried the Admiral Theater on Chicago’s North Side… you might have laid down a few bucks to help convicted mobster Sam Cecola buy that 17,500-square-foot home at 45 Lakeview Lane.
Empire, and the Lucious Lyon character, was created by Lee Daniels and Danny Strong, Lyon is the founder of Empire Entertainment, a record company that he runs with his family. The story has parallels to William Shakespeare’s King Lear
Lyon is married to former drug dealer and ex-con Cookie Lyon (Taraji P. Henson).
Lucious is diagnosed with ALS so he needs to name a successor. He pits his three sons against one another. The sons are the college-educated managerial type, Andre Lyon (Trai Byers), another son is a gay singer-songwriter Jamal (Famous Fraudster Jussie Smollett), and his third son is rapper Hakeem (Bryshere Y. Gray).
Sam Cecola’s Las Vegas Business ‘Empire’ – Club Paradise
Sam Cecola is not a fictional character. He’s a convicted tax cheat and reputed mobster. Cecola had a very profitable, and crooked business model in Las Vegas. In an 18-month period – from January 2013 to June 2014 – Las Vegas authorities received 407 complaints of credit card fraud at Club Paradise. Prosecutors allege that, in the first six months of 2014, men paid $2.4 million for drinks and dances they never received. One man alone had more than $80,000 charged to his credit cards for “tip coupons.”
The indicted employees were charged with “taking the customers’ credit cards and just basically running them until they get maxed out.”
Similar fraud cases have been reported at Scores in New York. The scam is typically pulled by a dancer (who may be working alone or with other club employees) using “knockout” drugs to disorient and confuse the customer. For more information, see: “What to Do If You Suspect You’ve Been Drugged or Robbed by a Stripper, Escort, or “Girl You Met at the Bar.”
Only 100 of those who complained of fraud cooperated with prosecutors in going after the individuals who perpetrated the fraud. The other 300+ refused to go public with their stories. Imagine how many men might not have reported fraud in the first place.
In January 2015, Club Paradise reopened under new management, with a new owner. The club struggled to find a customer base. In March 2015, we reported on new customer complaints of credit card fraud at the club (see “Trouble in Paradise”). Since then, a couple other customer complaints have been posted as comments on this website or sent to me in private emails, with the most recent complaints of alleged fraud in December 2015.
What Happened to the Club After 2015?
Since 2015 the club closed and reopened with new owners. TVO is pleased to report that the new club is professionally run, provides excellent service and entertainment. The club treats travelers and locals very well …. in fact, Mr. and Mrs. TVO enjoyed the club as recently as this Saturday night.
I won’t taint the new owners with any of the old stain by mentioning the new name. Locals and frequent travelers will probably know the location. If you know it… I encourage you to enjoy the club in confidence. However, be warned: Their drinks will still get you drunk; their dancers will still do their best to get ever last dollar in your pocket. And, at the end of the night, you’ll wonder, “what the hell just happened?” But it will be your fault … not the club, not Sam Cecola’s, not the mob’s fault … and not Las Vegas’ fault!