Lunati Gets 18-Month Sentence

Ralph Lunati, whose Platinum Plus and Tunica Cabaret were busted for live sex shows, was sentenced to 18 months in prison Friday.

U.S. District Judge Samuel H. Mays accepted a plea agreement reached earlier by attorneys for Lunati and federal prosecutors. Under the agreement, Lunati, 62, could have gone to trial if Mays had rejected the proposed 18-month sentence. The maximum sentence under federal guidelines was five years.

Lunati will also forfeit $207,000 and the two clubs, including the real estate.

In 2005 and 2006, undercover officers observed women having sex with each other on stage. The "two girl" show became the signature of the clubs, Mays said, and it was that illegal conduct, which was deemed to be prostitution, which led to the federal indictment. Lunati would get $5 from each ATM transaction and 10 percent each time a customer used a credit card to get cash from the bar.

He became wealthy enough to afford courtside seats at Memphis Grizzlies games. The girls paid to work at the clubs and earned "tips" or cash from customers who watched them having oral sex on stage.

Mays said it was not the clubs themselves but the conduct that was illegal. Memphis has struggled to regulate strip clubs for years. In the process, it earned a reputation for having the most wide-open clubs in America, according to one consultant's report.

Federal and state prosecutors say the clubs are havens for drugs and other crimes as well as prostitution.

-- John Branston

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