Strip Club Accused Of Exploiting Teen With Developmental Disability
TAMPA, Fla. — She was a troubled teenager who ran away from home and was coaxed into working at a strip club in Tampa, police said. A human trafficking charge against the man police said was responsible was later reduced, and resulted in a probation sentence.
Now, Scores Gentlemen’s Club has been accused of letting it happen.
The popular Tampa strip club is at the center of a lawsuit alleging that the club hired the girl as a minor while she was a victim of human trafficking.
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The suit, filed this week in Hillsborough Circuit Court, accuses the club of negligence and sexual abuse of a minor, among other allegations.
Scores is one of several highly visible adult-oriented clubs near Raymond James Stadium. Part of a national chain, the club’s website boasts that it is “consistently one of the best strip clubs in Tampa” and features “beautiful topless dancers” in a “relaxed yet sophisticated environment.”
The young woman, whose name appears in the complaint as Jane Doe, is described as having a developmental disability and “severely emotionally disabled.” She was 17 when she was hired at the club, but the lawsuit states that she “had a developmental age that substantially lagged her chronological age.” She also “required ongoing and extensive medical and health care interventions throughout her youth.”
Anyone who spoke with the girl would have readily seen that she did not have the mental capacity of an adult, the complaint states.
In late 2016, she became acquainted with Roberto “Bobbie” Torres III. He knew she was underage, the complaint states. He helped her run away from home, made her indebted to him, and “indoctrinated” her into “an adult sexualized lifestyle,” the lawsuit alleges.
On Sept. 30, 2017, Torres took the girl to Todd Couples Superstore, according to the complaint — a well-known shop specializing in sexual merchandise in Tampa. He bought her lingerie, shoes and pasties, the complaint states, and later took her to a number of strip clubs and tried to get them to hire her. They all refused.
Late that night, they visited Scores. The club hired her right away, according to the complaint. She took the stage within 30 minutes of her arrival.
The lawsuit names Charles Mellick as the club employee who allowed her to be hired. He gave her a performer agreement to sign, the complaint states. She filled it out in the name of another woman whose driver’s license Torres had given her, according to the lawsuit.
The girl continued to perform at the club through the following week, the complaint states. She performed lap dances for customers who touched and groped her. She was supplied with alcohol and drugs. After one shift, a fellow dancer persuaded the girl to go to a nearby hotel with some of their customers to engage in prostitution, according to the complaint.
The club was at the time part of a federal training program known as Club Operators Against Sex Trafficking, the complaint states. The program, run by Homeland Security Investigations, aims to help club operators identify victims of sex trafficking.
Police later located the girl and rescued her. She has since undergone mental health treatment, said Michael Dolce, the South Florida lawyer representing the girl.
“She is working very hard to restore her life,” Dolce said.
Torres, 31, was arrested in June 2018 on charges of human trafficking and interference with custody. He later pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of child neglect and received a three-year probation sentence, records show. His father, Roberto Torres Jr., was charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor. He was found guilty at trial and sentenced to 120 days in county jail, records show.
Mellick and the Todd Couples Superstore are named as defendants along with Scores and its corporate entities.
It was the Torreses who “knowingly exploited ‘Jane Doe,'” said Luke Lirot, the Tampa attorney representing Scores and the other defendants. “My clients did not, and the Tampa Police Department can vouch for my clients’ conduct and their cooperation during the investigation into this matter.”
Lirot said that the father and son were the true perpetrators of any misconduct and noted that neither of them is named as a defendant in the complaint. He said he intends to try to bring them into the lawsuit as third-party defendants.
“Without their inclusion in this action, no just ends could be served by this lawsuit,” he said.
Dolce, the girl’s lawyer, alluded to the possibility of further civil action against the son.
“I’m not finished with Mr. Torres,” he said. “I think my client’s essential goal is to hold everyone accountable who played a role in her victimization.”
Neither Torres could be reached for comment.
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