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Originally published Friday, September 24, 2010 at 11:14 AM

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Frank Colacurcio Jr. gets prison term, $1.3M fine

Frank Colacurcio Jr. was sentenced to one year and a day in prison and fined $1.3 million Friday, marking the end of his father's long-running strip-club empire.

Seattle Times staff reporter

Frank Colacurcio Jr. became the last don of his family's strip-club empire when U.S. District Court Judge Richard Jones on Friday sentenced him to one year and a day in prison, fined him $1.3 million and dismantled once and for all his father's long-running adult-entertainment business.

Colacurcio Jr., 48, pleaded guilty to a racketeering-conspiracy charge in June. In exchange, federal prosecutors agreed to dismiss 14 other charges against him.

Six men, including Colacurcio Jr. and his then-ailing father, were indicted last year following a four-year Seattle police and FBI investigation into prostitution-related racketeering at the Colacurcios' four Western Washington strip clubs. His father died in July, and Colacurcio Jr. is the last to be sentenced and the only one to go to prison.

"This truly will be the final nail in the coffin of the Colacurcio racketeering enterprise," Assistant U.S. Attorney Todd Greenberg told the court.

The Colacurcio family's adult-entertainment business has operated for decades and has been targeted repeatedly by city regulators and law enforcement.

The Colacurcios and four close associates were accused of conspiracy, money laundering, promoting prostitution and mail fraud, and Frank Jr. had two prior convictions for tax fraud and violating campaign-contribution laws by illegally donating to Seattle City Council members in the 2003 scandal that became known as "Strippergate."

The others — including Colacurcio Sr.'s nephew, Leroy Richard Christiansen, 68, of Seattle; his longtime associate David Carl Ebert, 62, of Monroe; and club manager Steven Michael Fueston, 62, of Tacoma — all pleaded guilty in April to prostitution- and racketeering-related charges.

John Gilbert "Gil" Conte, Colacurcio Sr.'s driver and associate, pleaded guilty earlier to a racketeering charge.

All four were placed on probation and banned from working in the adult-entertainment industry in Washington for life. Jones imposed the same restriction on Colacurcio Jr. on Friday.

In sentencing documents, Colacurcio Jr. said the pressures of growing up as the son of Seattle's most infamous organized-crime figure made it difficult not to follow in his footsteps. The government dismissed that as an excuse, and the judge told Colacurcio now was the time to find his own way and he scolded him for submitting an "angelic version of his criminal culpability" in a letter to the court.

"You are at a crossroads right now," the judge told him. "It's up to you, sir, to ensure there is no sequel" to his past crimes.

"Because, be assured, you are on the government's radar."

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Christiansen, Ebert and Fueston earlier agreed the government would seize the clubs — Honey's near Everett, Sugar's in Shoreline, Rick's in Lake City and Fox's in Parkland, Pierce County — and other property worth more than $7.5 million. The clubs closed in May.

The FBI said in court documents that dancers routinely performed sex acts with customers in the clubs' dimly lit "VIP" sections. The indictments alleged the clubs took a cut from these "private dances" and that the Colacurcios and their colleagues got rich. The four clubs were pulling in nearly $1 million a month, according to court documents.

Documents filed in the case related, in graphic detail, pervasive sex-related activities observed by confidential informants and undercover police officers in the four clubs.

One officer infiltrated the organization and became a manager at Colacurcio's flagship strip club, Rick's in Lake City. Federal agents used extensive wiretaps and recorded conversations at Talents West, the Colacurcios' dancer-hiring agency and business office, through microphones planted by the FBI.

Colacurcio Sr.'s battle with federal authorities goes back to the 1950s when he was accused of using strong-arm tactics to control Seattle's pinball trade and was identified as a racketeer in testimony before a U.S. Senate committee. He served four federal prison terms, primarily for skimming cash to avoid taxes and violating the terms of his probation.

Colacurcio Sr. died July 2 at 93.

Information from Seattle Times archives is included in this report.

Mike Carter: 206-464-3706 or mcarter@seattletimes.com

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