WASHINGTON, October 2 (RIA Novosti) – Two Ukrainian women have filed a lawsuit in the United States against a Detroit strip club and three men from the former Soviet Union, alleging that they were held captive and abused while being forced to work as strippers.
The two women allege that they were lured to the United States with the promise of work but instead were “virtually enslaved” and forced to “strip and perform lap dances” at the Detroit club for several months while being repeatedly subjected to beatings and sexual assaults, according to the Sept. 23 complaint filed in the US federal court in Michigan.
Two of the defendants – Veniamin Gonikman and his son Aleksandr Maksimenko – are from Ukraine, while a third, Mikhail Aronov, is a Lithuanian national. All three have pleaded guilty to charges related to human trafficking, receiving prison sentences ranging from three to 14 years.
Gonikman and Maksimenko are currently in prison, while Aronov was sentenced to 7 1/2 years in 2006 and is now believed to be residing in Lithuania, according to the lawsuit.
The plaintiffs, identified in the lawsuit as “Jane Doe One” and “Jane Doe Two,” allege that the men held them captive in the Detroit area and forced them to work at a strip club called “Cheetah’s on the Strip” from mid-2004 to early 2005.
They say they earned between $10,000 and $16,000 a month while working at the club, all of which they were forced to hand over to the defendants under the threat of violence. Maksimenko and Aronov repeatedly “required the women to provide them with money and sexual intercourse on demand” and threatened them with baseball bats and handguns, according to the complaint.
The women accuse the owner of the club, BFC Management Company, of either being aware that the women were being sexually exploited or of being “reckless in not knowing” about the situation.
The plaintiffs allege that two of the men boasted to BFC about using violence to ensure the women would remain compliant.
“We taught them well. We smacked ’em around and everything,” the complaint quotes the men as saying. “ … You gonna see them right now. … So quiet. So respectful. So quiet.”
The club has since been renamed “Ace of Spades Detroit,” according to the complaint. A man who answered the phone there Wednesday said no one was available for immediate comment on the lawsuit.
The two women made a dramatic escape from captivity in February 2005 after Jane Doe One told a client at the strip club about the mental, physical and sexual abuse.
The client drove to the house where she was being held and drove her to immigration officials after she managed to slip out of the home by pretending to take out the garbage, according to the complaint. Jane Doe Two was subsequently rescued after an FBI swat team stormed the apartment where she was being held.
The plaintiffs are seeking unspecified punitive and compensatory damages, and they are requesting a jury trial.