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Human Trafficking Scandal Forces City to Shut Down Club Madonna, Owner Plans to Fight Back

MIAMI BEACH (CBSMiami) - A four page order, signed by the City Manager of Miami Beach, effectively shut down Club Madonna for six months. The City says they are doing so in an effort to protect the public, but the club's owners say it's payback because of a pending lawsuit.

The neon lights are off on 15th and Washington, the doors are locked, and the Club Madonna Limo is sitting in park.  For the first time in decades, South Beach's only strip club was ordered to close and stop doing business by city order.

Jimmy Morales, City Manager, said, "If it's so easy for human traffickers to kidnap a 13 year-old girl and bring her to dance at the club without anyone noticing...How can we be assured that this is not going to happen again to other girls in our community?"

Morales served the shutdown notice late Friday just before the end of business. He called the strip joint a danger to public safety following allegations that a 13 year-old runaway was forced to dance as an exotic nude dancer.

Morales said, "My role as city manager is to do what I think is right and to enforce our code and to protect our residents and that's exactly what I'm doing."

The Miami Dade State Attorney's Office and Miami Police arrested three people accusing them of forcing the minor to prostitute herself and dance at Club Madonna. The owner, Leroy Griffith, said he didn't know about it and is outraged.

Griffith said, "Very disappointing. This club has been open and operating for 20 some odd years with no problems until I sued the city of Miami Beach for a liquor license."

The city and club are currently at odds over a liquor license. In a phone interview, Club Madonna's lawyer told CBS4's Jamie Guirola, that the official rrder revoking the Occupational License " not a's tactical, malicious, & vindictive."

13-year-old trafficking
(Source: Miami Police Department)

Morales responded, "A 13 year-old girl dances at his club. I'm responding to that. If that's tactical, vindictive then I don't know the meanings of those words."

Guirola asked Griffith, "One of the things the City Manager says that played a role in the decision is that you didn't know what was going on in your club. Do you have anything to say about that?"

Griffith responded, "I was on a cruise. I wasn't here and I'll talk to you here all tomorrow."

The temporary suspension also has the backing of the Miami Beach's new Mayor Philip Levine. He tweeted that he stands by the decision.

Griffith said he is filing for injunctions tomorrow.  The club is not to do any kind of business for six months, but the owner hopes to have it back open next week.

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