At the former Rosalinda’s Gentlemen’s Club outside of Jamestown, the exotic dancers were known as Sin, Ice, and Lust.
Under dim light, they stripped topless on the elevated stage for well-known patrons, the nightclub security and a revolving staff of managers or bartenders.
Guests were beguiled to the business for a $10 cover charge and enticed into private dances in a mirrored back room.
That was the testimony during a preliminary hearing Friday for the nightclub owner, her daughter and two affiliates of the business by two officers of the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control who posed as construction workers in an undercover operation in January and February.
At the end of the hearing, Tuolumne County Superior Court Judge Kevin Siebert called the evidence “extremely weak” and dropped many of the charges against Rosalinda San Martin, 78, the owner, of Manteca; Marlinda Beth Russo, 47, her daughter, of Manteca.
He found probable cause for the felony charges of maintaining a place to use narcotics and allowing a place for the storage or sale of a controlled substance and bound them over for trial.
The charges of transport or sale of methamphetamine, possession of methamphetamine for sale, transport or sale of LSD, possession of LSD for sale, and misdemeanor charges permitting a person to solicit alcohol were dropped due to insufficient evidence and witness testimony.
“You have to prove it by implication that, it was so prevalent that you have to know about it,” Siebert said.
Raymond Jeffrey Bowman, 55, of Jamestown, will be charged with maintaining a place to use narcotics, sale of methamphetamine and possession of methamphetamine for sale.
The charges of transport or sale of LSD, possession of LSD for sale, and misdemeanor charges permitting a person to solicit alcohol were dropped.
Richard Lewis Bennett, 53, of Jamestown, will be called to trial on felony charges of maintaining a place to use narcotics and allowing a place for the storage or sale of a controlled substance. The charges of sale of methamphetamine and possession of methamphetamine for sale were dropped.
The testimony of six law enforcement officers during the preliminary hearing was descriptive in the way of witness statements, and observations of the nightclub during the undercover surveillance and the March 1 raid on the property where 10 people were arrested.
But much of the evidentiary claims against the suspects were made against people that still have active warrants out for their arrest and were not present at the preliminary hearing.
ABC agent Michael Grene said he and ABC agent Salvador Martinez visited the club six times.
Posing as new patrons, they saw women exposing their breasts while alcohol was served and saw dancers touching the guests, he testified.
Soon they became familiar customers, Grene said, and recalled a man named Nathan Keith leaning toward him at the bar on Feb. 2 while San Martin worked on the nightclub premises.
“Sin” ambled up to the stripper-pole stage just as “Lust” departed, Grene said, and Nathan told him “she was going to get fairly wild for what he gave her.”
Over the rest of the night Sabrina Carol Wood, 27, of Jamestown, was “lackadaisical” and “sweating profusely.” He believed she was under the influence of LSD, Grene said.
“Her ultimate state of mind seemed to change over the night,” he said.
Grene asked for acid, and Keith told him it would cost $10 for a tab. Keith left to the motel property, Grene said, and returned with a Sweet Tart candy blotted with liquid and wrapped in gum-wrapper foil.
During the next undercover surveillance on Feb. 16, Grene told Keith that the candy didn’t seem to have much of an effect on him, a claim that seemed to make Keith “offended.”
Keith was initially resistant to another sale, but soon relented and returned with another Sweet Tart candy wrapped in brown wax paper.
“It was like pulling teeth to get this,” Keith said, as he handed him the dosed candy at the bar.
Department of Justice Criminalist John Alfter also testified on Friday that chemical tests to determine if LSD was in the candy were ultimately inconclusive.
A color spot test confirmed the presence of tryptamines, the ionic structure of LSD and other compounds, he said, but another test could detect only an indication of LSD within the sugar matrix of the candy, and not a certainty, he said. A background subtraction test on the second sample found information “consistent with LSD” but was not definitive of the “full spectrum” of the compound, he added.
During the preliminary examination, Russo and San Martin turned from Tuolumne County Deputy District Attorney Cassandra Jenecke to the testifying ABC officers. Bowman slumped in his seat and shook his head each time he was characterized as security or an employee of the nightclub. Bennett alternated between staring at his attorney or lying his head on his right shoulder, asleep.
The two suspects implicated in the ABC agents’ testimonies were absent from the court, both wanted by the Tuolumne County Sheriff’s Office on active felony warrants.
Nathan Keith is identified on the criminal complaint as a co-defendant on felony charges operating a drug house, renting a place for the storage or sale of control substance, the sale or transportation of LSD and possession of LSD for sale.
Wood failed to appear at a July 13 hearing and has had a warrant for her arrest since then. She is charged with maintaining a place to sell narcotics, allowing a place for the storage or sale of a controlled substance, transport or sale of LSD, possession of LSD for sale, and misdemeanor charges possession of heroin, possession of methamphetamine, soliciting alcoholic beverages and possession of a controlled substance smoking device.
A third woman named Gina Chiodo, a former exotic dancer at the nightclub, was also implicated in Martinez’s testimony but has not been located by law enforcement.
During the final visit of the undercover agents to Rosalinda’s Gentlemen’s Club, Martinez was in a private dance with Chiodo when he said she propositioned him.
“She opened the door for, how do I say it? Prostitution, I guess. She asked me if I liked the dance, I said yes, it was awesome,” Martinez said. “I asked her what could I get if it was more.”
The woman responded that it would be $300, Martinez said.
“I said $300 for everything? And she said $300 for all night.”
Gina Chiodo has an active misdemeanor warrant for soliciting or agreeing to a prostitution act.
Heath Wilding, representative counsel for San Martin in place of Vittoria Bossi, of Stockton, who was absent; David Beyersdorf, of Sonora, representing Russo; Carolyn Woodall, of Sonora, representing Bowman and Clay Bedford, of Sonora, representing Bennett, all sought to dissociate their clients’ affiliation with the nightclub to suggest that they were not responsible for the activity occurring there.
“There’s no evidence in any way that Mrs. Russo touched drugs, sold drugs or knew of any drug sales,” Beyersdorf said.
Jenecke insisted that the defendants’ frequent presence on the property and their role in managing it implicated them as knowing participants of the criminal acts.
Tuolumne County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. James Riley testified that during a March 1 interview at the raid with exotic dancer Breanna Gallegos, 22, of Jamestown, she alleged that Bowman gave her methamphetamine in a room they shared, and she last took LSD three weeks before.
“Isn’t that what they do around here?” Riley recalled her saying. “And she continued to say they all do meth as well.”
Gallegos was charged with misdemeanor visiting a place where a controlled substance is used and has had an active warrant since March 5, Jenecke said.
Riley added that Bowman referred to himself as a “low level dude” who “takes care” of the dancers when about one gram of methamphetamine was found in two baggies in his possession at the raid. Two broken glass smoking device stems, (including one that was two broken stems glued together) were later found in his room.
Russo also admitted there was drug use at the property, but said “she’s tried to kick them out previously but they just won’t listen to her,” Riley said.
Tuolumne Narcotics Team Detective John Hammell testified to finding methamphetamine, heroin, a digital scale, a torch lighter and a cell phone hidden under a pink blanket in Room 7, where Wood lived.
In Room 3, shared by Russo and San Martin, a silver and white .38 derringer pistol was located under San Martin’s bed and found to be stolen out of Modesto, Hammell said.
In Room 6, which belonged to Bennett, a large jug container was filled with two pounds of assorted prescription pills. Most were antibiotics, but some were narcotics, Hammell said.
Bennett told Hammell that he collected Russo’s old pills to eventually throw out, but denied doing any drugs himself. Bennett has lived on the property since 2004.
“He basically described as everybody, mostly everybody, using controlled substances. He said, people do dope, I just keep to myself,” Hammell said.
In Room 5, belonging to Jamie Christine Wilcox, 42, a purple sweet tart candy with a liquid blot was found wrapped in paper in a dresser drawer and a brown wallet with the driver’s license belonging to Nathan Keith.
Rooms 1 and 2 were not searched or included in the search warrant, he said, and believed to be the two that were rented to customers.
Wilcox was charged with a selection of misdemeanors and was not included as a co-defendant. Jenecke said Wilcox had pending felonies on a separate case and had an active warrant since April 30.
Tuolumne Narcotics Team Sgt. Vic Serrano testified to the persistent calls for service at the nightclub during his time as a peace officer in the county, and said San Martin, Russo and Bennett all represented themselves as managers or “liaisons” of the property.
Rosalinda’s Gentlemen’s Club was demolished by county code compliance in July, following a designation of the property as “unsafe for human occupancy” on March 2 and a fire on March 13 that destroyed most of the hotel structure and damaged the nightclub.
The property is owned by Aponte Property Management, for which San Martin is the signatory.
The four defendants are scheduled for an arraignment hearing at 1:30 p.m.Sept. 17 in Department 2 of the Tuolumne County Superior Court.