Sunday, May 20, 2018
News Roundup

Investigators: Man really did spend $50,000 in strip club

LARGO — So, honey, about that $50,000 strip club bill …

A newly released Pinellas sheriff's report calls Lokesh James' claims of theft at Bliss Cabaret "unfounded." James, detectives wrote, spent the money himself.

The Tampa Bay Times reported last week on a lawsuit James filed over the charges Bliss made to his credit card. James said he spent only about $600 on some Michelob Ultra and time in a champagne room. He said a bartender forged his signature on a dozen charges, turning his night into a $50,000 stripper spending spree.

But staffers at the Ulmerton Road topless bar told detectives James came in that night in March, after drinking, and demanded a Diamond VIP room. Between 9 p.m. and 3 a.m., they said, he had at least six or seven strippers entertaining him at all times. Bliss managers gave detectives eight pages of receipts, and invoices showed James' signature and a thumbprint. A Bank of America investigator told detectives James' stories didn't match up and denied his claims of fraud, the report states.

James, club staffers said, had been a regular, and they noted that James had been arrested that month on a scheming to defraud charge. James told the Times this week that fraud charge was unrelated, but said it fueled a detective's bias against him and let "preconceived notions" get in the way of the investigation.

James' attorney, David Sockol, contends that spending $50,000 in six hours remains too crazy to be true.

He pointed to the quick repetition of large separate charges, some within minutes, as suspicious. He also wondered why James would have signed off on thousands of dollars in tips for the male bartender.

"If he's in there with seven girls, then why is a bartender getting tipped all this money?" Sockol said. "It was a shoddy investigation."

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