ATLANTA — A strip club owner paid dancers to have sex with star athletes because he wanted to attract celebrities, a former manager testified Friday.
Owner Steve Kaplan felt sports stars would popularize the Gold Club, Thomas "Ziggy" Sicignano said Friday at the federal racketeering trial of Kaplan and six associates.
Sicignano has pleaded guilty to concealing his knowledge of crimes.
Prosecutors say Kaplan turned his Atlanta strip club into a high-priced brothel, overbilled customers’ credit cards and used the money to pay off the Gambino crime family.
Sicignano said Kaplan first thought to arrange sex between celebrities and dancers after basketball player Larry Johnson, then with the Charlotte Hornets, asked the club to set him up with a dancer in 1994.
Sicignano testified that he told Johnson that that was against club policy. But when Kaplan heard of the conversation, he told Sicignano that the practice ‘"is the way we have to go with these guys. … This is a big, well-known athlete, he was begging you,’ " Sicignano said.
Knowing Kaplan was a New York Knicks fan, Sicignano then arranged for players John Starks and Greg Anthony to come to the club when New York was in town. Kaplan met with the players, gave them free food and sent dancers into a private room with them.
Later, one of the dancers told Sicignano she and two other strippers went to Starks’ hotel room, where they performed sexual acts. Kaplan told Sicignano that he had paid the dancers to entertain Starks.
Starks’ agent, Leigh Steinberg, said Friday that Starks may issue a statement about the testimony.
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