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Strip-club employees to fight sex trafficking on Broncos playoff-game weekend

Categories: News, Sports

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Major sporting events attract big money and big crowds. But Michael Ocello, who owns several Denver strip clubs and co-founded Club Operators Against Sex Trafficking, says they also attract a specific type of crime: men and women, girls and boys who are brought to Denver and forced to work as prostitutes.

"It's basically slavery," Ocello says. And on Sunday, when the Broncos take on the San Diego Chargers in Denver, Ocello's employees (read: strip club dancers, waitresses, etc.) intend to do something about it.

Like his St. Louis employees did during the World Series last year, Ocello's Denver employees -- "I would never call the ladies who work for us 'strippers,'" he says -- will be outside Mile High Stadium on Sunday, handing out trading cards printed especially for the game. On one side, the cards look like a vintage-y souvenir. On the other side, they proclaim that "Sex Trafficking Is Modern Day Slavery!" and include tips on how to spot a sex-trafficking victim. The cards also include phone numbers for federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the National Human Trafficking Resource Center hotline.

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The front of the card...
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...and the back of the card.
Ocello is based in St. Louis, but he owns several Denver clubs, including the Diamond Cabaret, the Penthouse Club, La Boheme, PT's Showclub and PT's All Nude. He says he became more aware of sex trafficking three years ago after one of his clubs in the northeast was accused of participating in it. Although the club was cleared of all charges, Ocello says, the accusation bothered him -- so much so that he requested a meeting with the assistant secretary of federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement, John Torres.

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Michael Ocello, via KDSK.
"We were both blunt with each other," Ocello recall. While Torres suspected Ocello's clubs were involved in sex trafficking, Ocello insisted they were not. Prostitution is bad for business, he explained; strip clubs make more money the longer a patron stays in the club, buying food and drinks and dances. "If a guy comes in and gets a happy ending in fifteen minutes, he's not staying for that second drink," Ocello says.

But something Torres said during their meeting bothered Ocello. "He said, 'How do you know that when a girl leaves your club...she's not getting into a car with someone who's forcing her to be there?'" Ocello admitted that he didn't, and he vowed to become familiar with the signs of human trafficking and to educate his employees, too.

In 2010, he co-founded Club Operators Against Sex Trafficking, or COAST. To date, he says the organization has trained 4,000 people, including 500 in Denver, on recognizing the signs of sex trafficking. And it's worked, he says. Ocello gives a real-life example: Two women came into one of his clubs. One was big and bulky like a football player and the other looked like she was there to audition. The football-player woman did all of the talking and when the manager asked for their IDs, the bigger woman produced both of them. When the manager asked the other woman why she wanted to work there, she said, "My friend says this is where I need to work."

Those are all red flags, Ocello says -- red flags that his employees might have missed if it weren't for their training. The case was reported to law enforcement; he doesn't know if anyone was ever arrested or charged.

Even though not everyone approves of strip clubs, Ocello notes: "We are a legal business and as a legal part of the community, we want to make sure human trafficking doesn't come to our clubs."

COAST has printed similar cards for the National Western Stock Show, which starts on January 11 and runs through January 26. Keep reading to see a photo of that card.

Continue to see the card and a television news report about COAST.


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24 comments
5280
5280

What a joke of an article! Ocello's whole purpose w/this ruse is to divert traffic to his clubs as Bronco Home Games and the Stockshow are his biggest nights of the year. It's all the more ironic that many of his "dancers" routinely solicit phone numbers for extra-curricular activities outside of his clubs with patrons and regulars, due in part to the huge cut Ocello takes from their earnings. I know this having made the mistake of dating one of them and finding out what really happens behind the scenes. To their credit many of his girls are legit and don't engage in this activity and he doesn't tolerate it *in* his clubs, but it is nonetheless a routine occurrence and many of his biggest customers spend LOTS of money there b/c of the action it leads to outside his clubs. The Westword just got Punked by printing this article and making Ocello out to be some kinda do-gooder... don't be so ignorant and gullible in the future.

Darlene  January
Darlene January

People should not joke about Sex Trafficking... Families have lost their children to these people. They become sex slaves at a early age! People are so desperate for money they will even sell their own children to these sex traders... it has to stop somewhere... might as well start with these strip clubs especially if these owners get money hungry to keep their clubs up. People will do anything for money. GREED will get you kidnapped, killed or jailed!

Darlene  January
Darlene January

I am glad they are bringing awareness to Denver since this city has been one of the key spots for sex trafficking...

Amy Scarbrough Miller
Amy Scarbrough Miller

Education that leads to awareness and action is terrific, but there is great irony in the source of the education. Exploitation is exploitation. Unfortunately one of these is lawful...

Edith Sargon
Edith Sargon

Wow, this is pretty incredible. Thanks for posting, Ana!

Pheenix Wonder
Pheenix Wonder

I can't believe the horrible stereotyping going on in the comments..."any of the ppl with that attitude wouldn't help anyone anyway....even if they knew there was trafficking going on". See how stereotyping goes!

Lisa D Falon
Lisa D Falon

Marquesa... Look who's calling the kettle black!!

Marquesa Felker
Marquesa Felker

Lisa your stupid to judge someone so quick and not be able to take a joke. . Not that big a deal

Monica Britton
Monica Britton

His "good deed" is really just advertising his strip clubs and showing potential customers the "goods" he has to offer by having his girls hand out awareness cards with his club logos so they know where to go to really get educated on exploitation. The only difference between what he is doing and what they do in Vegas is he doesn't have a girl on the cards, he has them live and in person. Scumbag.

mbritton2009
mbritton2009

His "good deed" is really just advertising his strip clubs and showing potential customers the "goods" he has to offer by having his girls hand out awareness cards with his club logos so they know where to go to really get educated on exploitation. The only difference between what he is doing and what they do Vegas is he doesn't have a girl on the cards, he has them live and in person. Scumbag

Lisa D Falon
Lisa D Falon

Justin you're an idiot. Learn to read & educate yourself on the horror that goes on in this fucked up country. Besides, your dumb ass probably can't afford to go to this game or these strip club.

Justin Pearce
Justin Pearce

Thats all we need are a bunch of coked out strippers protesting at the game lol

leahryan30
leahryan30

Are these strippers... I mean dancers and waitresses... going to be clothed while handing out these cards or will be continually exploiting their bodies to gain attention to hand out this info?

DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

 ""If a guy comes in and gets a happy ending in fifteen minutes, he's not staying for that second drink," Ocello says."


If a guy comes in and spends $200 - $300 on tips, lap dances and drinks and doesn't get a happy ending, he'll be going to a different club next time.


hth

VerryFunney
VerryFunney

1/2 the girls in his club are victims of sexual abuse. and why does he have his strip club 'logos' on the card? nice advertising campaign slimeball.

Blackrobxx
Blackrobxx

Wait! PT's has an all nude club?    (closes out computer, grabs jacket, headed out door)

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