Illinois strip club paid mayor to allow prostitution for years, US says

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In 2003, prosecutors said, the mayor of a northern Illinois city sent a message to the operators of a local strip club: Pay me or I'll shut you down.

The mayor of Harvey, Illinois, a city of about 18,000 people just south of Chicago, knew that the strip club allowed prostitution in a private area of ​​the club and demanded $3,000 a month from the business to allow it to remain open, according to prosecutors. .

According to a criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Chicago, the club gave in to the threat and eventually agreed to a demand from the mayor to double its payment to $6,000 a month. The scheme continued for about 15 years, prosecutors said.

On Monday, Rommell Kellogg, 71, the mayor's brother, was convicted after a weeklong trial of conspiracy to demand and collect payments from the club, the U.S. attorney's office for the Northern District of Illinois said in a statement. Kellogg could face up to 25 years in prison on that charge and up to five years on each of the five counts against him involving conspiracy to commit robbery and intimidation, prosecutors said.

Corey Johnson, 68, the mayor's cousin, pleaded guilty last month to one count of theft for his role in raising money in the scheme, according to prosecutors.

No sentencing dates have been set for the two.

Gal Pissetzky, Johnson's attorney, said Thursday that she believed Johnson's plea deal was a “fair resolution.”

Rommell Kellogg's attorney declined to comment Thursday.

The criminal complaint does not name Eric Kellogg, former mayor of Harvey, and he has not been charged in the case. But federal records show he was mayor of Harvey from 2003 to 2019.

Eric Kellogg did not immediately respond to phone messages or emails Thursday.

It is unclear whether federal prosecutors intend to file additional charges under the scheme. The U.S. attorney's office declined to comment, noting that sentencing was still pending against the two defendants who were found guilty.

Under the conspiracy, the strip club, which is not named in court records, could operate while allowing its dancers to engage in prostitution as long as it paid $3,000 a month to the mayor, according to the criminal complaint. That worked for a few years until about 2007 or 2008, when the mayor wanted the club to double its monthly payment, prosecutors said.

The club's operators initially refused to pay $6,000 a month, and a police officer arrived at the club days later and ordered the business closed, according to a criminal complaint. The club later gave in to demands for increased pay, and the deal continued even after the strip club's owner died in 2008 and an adult son took over, according to the complaint.

According to the complaint, federal agents searched the club in October 2017 based on evidence of tax crimes and prostitution. The search led to the club closing for several weeks, and the club director later agreed to work with investigators.

When the club reopened, investigators told the manager not to allow prostitution on the premises but to continue paying the mayor, according to the complaint, which does not name the manager. Investigators documented payments from the club to the mayor from Dec. 8, 2017, to May 3, 2018, totaling $37,000.

As part of the investigation, authorities tapped the phones of Mr. Johnson and Rommell Kellogg, and also obtained some recorded conversations between the club manager and Mr. Johnson.

In a conversation between the club manager and Johnson in December 2017, Johnson shared his desire to stop working as a jobber, according to the complaint.

“I never wanted to be in this from the beginning,” Johnson said during the meeting.

The club manager and Kellogg had a meeting in January 2018 during which the manager told Kellogg that Johnson wanted out of the plan, according to the complaint.

“Corey told me he wanted to stop delivering pizzas,” the manager said, using pizza as a code word for the payments.

Kellogg said he would not allow Johnson to stop working as a broker, according to the complaint.

“It can't come out of nowhere,” Kellogg said during the meeting. “He's not going to come out of nowhere because that's the way things are. That's convenient for me, convenient for you. That's convenient.”



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