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Trial Starts for Hostess Club Manager Accused of Hiring Undocumented Workers at Club 907

By Eric Richardson with Shereen Meraji
Published: Tuesday, December 06, 2011, at 03:22PM
Club 907 Raid Eric Richardson / blogdowntown

LAPD officers stand outside Club 907 on the night of November 5, 2010, when officers executed a search warrant on the hostess club and made 88 arrests.

A federal trial began on Tuesday for one of the managers of Club 907, where a police action just over one year ago resulted in 88 arrests and briefly brought to the spotlight the obscure world of Downtown's hostess clubs.

Police arrested 88 people in a raid on November 5, 2010, most of them female employees who were working with counterfeit documents.

Several of those women are expected to testify in the case against Joel Cirilo Sosa, one of two managers that the U.S. Attorney's office has charged with the ongoing employment of undocumented workers. Prosecutors allege that only two of the 800 employment records seized from the club's office contained I-9 forms with correctly filled-out verification sections.

Hugo Rene Baquiax, the other manager charged, took a plea deal last month and was sentenced to three years probation, a $10,000 fine and 300 hours of community service.

Sosa has maintained his "not guilty" plea, and his defense attorney on Tuesday told prospective jurors that his client was not responsible for the establishment's hiring decisions.

LAPD's raid came after five months of investigation into the club, one of a half-dozen Downtown where men pay for time spent dancing and socializing with female employees. They are also known as taxi-dancing clubs—think of a taxi meter ticking as you take a ride across town.

According to rates posted on its door the night of the raid, Club 907 charged patrons $30 per hour.

While the clubs are regulated as adult establishments, they do not serve alcohol and are forbidden from nudity. Officers first visited the club in June and found employees working without valid identification. Later, undercover officers visiting the club found evidence of prostitution, and observed unpermitted lap dances and patrons playing pool for money.

Club 907 reopened the night after the raid, but closed one month later. A number of the club's former employees have filed a civil suit against Club 907's owners alleging illegal employment practices.

Court proceedings in the case against Sosa are expected to run through the end of the week.

Radio Story by Shereen Meraji / KPCC

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