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Lawsuit against Sapphire Gentleman's Club alleges forced prostitution, sexual harassment and sex trafficking

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Posted at 11:14 AM, Jun 29, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-29 15:10:19-04

LAS VEGAS (KTNV)  — A lawsuit has been filed against Sapphire Gentleman’s Club and its owners on behalf of several former dancers at the club for “egregious acts of sexual harassment, forced prostitution and sex trafficking, among other allegations.”

The lawsuit is against Sapphire Gentleman’s Club in New York, as well as 17 of its owners and partners. The club also has a branch in Las Vegas, and lawyers representing the New York workers hope to "reach other dancers across the country that may have worked at the club and were victimized," 13 Action News was told.

The class-action lawsuit says the defendants created and sustained a toxic work environment and unlawful retaliation after coercing Sapphire dancers to perform sex acts on patrons. In addition to sex trafficking, the suit alleges the defendants condoned and looked the other way to sexual assault, physical assault, illegal drug use and underage drinking,

“Sapphire Gentlemen’s Club, its owners and hosts, were all part of a prostitution and kickback scheme to coerce dancers into sexual acts with patrons, or face retaliation for not complying with the requests,” said Jon Norinsberg, partner at Joseph & Norinsberg LLC and one of the attorneys representing the former Sapphire dancers.

“Dancers were also subjected to retaliation that resulted in lost wages and harassment for not complying with these demands, adding to the physical and verbal abuse suffered while employed at Sapphire Gentlemen’s Club,” said Bennitta Joseph, co-counsel for the plaintiffs and partner at Joseph & Norinsberg LLC.

In the complaint, it is alleged that the prostitution ring created by the defendants was the catalyst for an array of unlawful conduct, all in the name of profit.

Plaintiffs say hosts at the club would act as pimps to coerce the girls into acts of prostitution.

One frequent customer and co-defendant, Matt Gates, indicated that he knew prostitution went on at the club “1,000 percent. It’s been going on since the beginning of time.”

New and younger dancers were allegedly groomed and coerced by the hosts into acts of prostitution by going into private rooms. These hosts illegally compelled dancers to either engage in prostitution or earn less money, according to the complaint. Dancers who refused to participate in prostitution said they saw their earnings drop from approximately $2,000 a night to a couple hundred dollars.

Additionally, lawyers argue the club committed wage violations by classifying workers as independent contractors, as well as implementing pay-to-play policies, kickback schemes and tip stealing.

They say the defendants created and perpetuated a work culture where a customer’s violent behavior was actually tolerated, and in doing so, the defendants sent the message that Sapphire’s singular agenda was at all times to maximize profits, irrespective of the law, the safety of the defendants’ dancers, or basic human decency.

Despite numerous complaints from multiple dancers, the lawsuit claims no corrective action was taken by Sapphire management.

The plaintiffs are seeking an award of $10 million for all non-monetary and/or compensatory damages related to emotional, physical, and professional trauma, and punitive damages of $15 million to deter future bad actors.