Nudity charges dropped, might be trafficking victims
CLEARWATER - The Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney's Office on Thursday dismissed nudity charges against two dancers at the Vegas Showgirls nightclub because they might be victims in a human trafficking ring, authorities said.
One of the dancers, however, was originally named as a suspect not as a victim when the Pinellas sheriff's office originally announced arrests in the case.
Each was charged with violating a law that prohibits nudity in an alcoholic establishment. TBO.com is not using their names because authorities believe they might be victims of sex crimes.
When the charges came before County Judge Lorraine M. Kelly this morning, they were dismissed. In court, Assistant State Attorney Henry Stiles cited as a reason the ongoing human trafficking investigation.
Outside court, the women's attorney, Vilma Janusyte, said, "They think they might be victims." After the charges were dismissed, Stiles said the same thing.
This month, the sheriff's office announced the arrests of three men in what investigators described as a human trafficking case. Court documents say women were transported from a house in Treasure Island to exotic dance clubs including Vegas Showgirls, at 10570 Gandy Blvd. where at least one woman was forced to have sex with men.
One of the women, who has danced at Vegas Showgirls, was listed as a suspect by the sheriff's office and was arrested on charges of human trafficking and deriving proceeds from prostitution. These charges still stand.
In court papers, she is described as one woman's handler, making sure the woman didn't try to escape as she was made to make herself sexually available to men at Vegas Showgirls, at a pro-rated hourly rate.
It could not be determined how or if her role went from suspect to victim. Stiles referred questions to his boss, Richard Ripplinger, who was not available. And the sheriff's office had no immediate comment.