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For now, the District still must rely, in part, on an applicant’s truthfulness, Miss Delaney said.

“If there was a felony conviction, he should have told us about it,” she said.

Community activist Kathy Henderson, a former neighborhood advisory commissioner in Ward 5, said the District “can’t rely on a criminal to self-report” his or her criminal history.

“This clearly never should have happened,” she said. “A mistake was made. Somebody needs to take ownership of the mistake. People with these types of records shouldn’t be given a liquor license.”

Other community leaders in Ward 5, home to Club Level’s, also are upset.

“If you have a person who has a demonstrated track record of being involved in these acts and you grant them a license, that’s ridiculous,” said Jean Mason, president of the Arboretum Neighborhood Association.

With its back windows overlooking the police department’s 5th District headquarters, the nightclub appears a brazen place to oversee a major drug operation.

But for more than a year, authorities say, the converted warehouse provided enough cover for the illegal business to thrive, complete with its own language.

The wiretap on Jones’ cell phone recorded conversations about “VIPs,” “tickets” and “half-tickets” — a coded language that investigators said referred to various amounts of cocaine.

“To a person that’s just listening, the average person just thinks we were talking about selling legitimate tickets,” a cooperating witness testified in court.

“We talked about things that surround the nightclub that wouldn’t raise suspicion to anyone,” he said.

Jones’ attorney, A. Eduardo Balarezo, said his client wasn’t operating a drug ring out of the club.

“This case is based mostly on the interpretations of what it calls ‘coded’ telephone [calls] allegedly involving Mr. Jones, and the use of informants and other individuals with motives to testify in favor of the government and against Mr. Jones,” he said in court.

But prosecutors say the club was where Jones arranged drug deals worth as much as $100,000 and laundered the proceeds.

There is no indication that Jones ran other nightclubs, but he had a major financial stake in Kili’s Kafe & Lounge in Northwest, which went bankrupt in 2005 and eventually closed after shootings and other violence, according to court records.

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