Nightclub officials face tax evasion charges

Comptroller says at least $700,000 owed

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The owners and managers of seven nightclubs in Prince George’s County were indicted on tax evasion charges Tuesday, signaling that county officials’ war on problem nightclubs is far from over.

Sixteen people face charges stemming from the nightclubs’ failure to pay upward of $700,000 in taxes on cover charges, food and drinks served at the establishments, often without a liquor license, authorities said.

“We’re talking about hundreds of thousands of dollars in tax revenue that has been kept from the state. It may be millions once we finish the audit,” Maryland Comptroller Peter V.R. Franchot said. “They did this by using illegal tactics and trying to hide transactions from the state.”

Of the seven nightclubs involved - Crossroads in Bladensburg, Plaza 23 in Temple Hills, Black Amethyst in Temple Hills, CFE in Forestville, Puzzles Event Center in Suitland, De La Swan Event Atrium in Hyattsville, and Let’s Chat in Suitland - three were among a list of clubs targeted for closure by the Prince George’s County Police Department last year.

The owners and operators face charges including failure to file a sales and use tax return, sale of alcoholic beverages without a license, and felony theft.

The investigation into the nightclubs’ finances began in June 2011, around the time county council members introduced legislation to crack down on clubs plagued by violence. Activities at some of the clubs had raised suspicion among authorities in the comptroller’s office for as long as four years, officials said.

While the criminal charges against the owners and operators relate to the nightclubs’ finances rather than public safety, Prince George’s County Police Chief Mark A. Magaw and State’s Attorney Angela Alsobrooks said the continued crackdown on nightclubs is contributing to drops in violent crime.

“Closing many of these clubs, I think, has had a really beneficial impact on our communities, as many of them were encouraging violence and crime and really wreaking havoc on many of our neighborhoods,” Ms. Alsobrooks said.

Chief Magaw added that overall crime is down in the county by 5 percent this year compared to last year.

Five of the seven clubs remain open. Black Amethyst voluntarily closed in February after a search warrant was served and CFE was closed due to a violation of its use and occupancy permit, authorities said.

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