On many occasions, says the complaint, victims were either too drunk to sign a credit card receipt or staff at the club would forge the signature at the end of the night. If a guest complained the next morning, managers at the club would explain that he had ordered all of the drinks and show him receipts and surveillance video from the club threatening to call the local police if the tab wasn't paid.
The bar girls, who worked in pairs, allegedly split an average 20 percent cut, while managers and bartenders each received 10 percent.
The clubs themselves, say authorities, were merely fronts for the rip-offs. They weren't open to the public, and any would-be customer who wasn't accompanied by a pair of bar girls was denied entrance. The men running the clubs allegedly arranged to have the bar girls brought to the U.S. and housed them in apartments while they participated in the scam. In some cases, the women were trained overseas before coming to the Miami area.
The FBI's investigation of the clubs involved an undercover agent who posed as a corrupt local police officer who moonlighted as a bouncer. According to the complaint, the duties of the undercover "bouncer" included checking IDs of the bar girls at the door, pretending he didn't know them and making sure victims paid their bills by identifying himself as a police officer.
The undercover agent also obtained pills at some of the clubs, including an herbal sleep aid and capsules believed to be tranquilizers, according to the complaint. He was told by alleged coconspirators that at least one of the women had drugged victims in the past.
The clubs involved were all located along Washington Avenue in South Miami Beach. Caviar Bar was closed after American Express got so many complaints of fraudulent charges that it shut off the bar's merchant account, but the club reopened three months later as Stars Lounge and allegedly continued the scheme until it was shut down again for the same reason. Other clubs included Nowhere Bar, Steel Toast and the Tangia Club.