A strip club in Atlanta was losing business to a competitor. Employees met to discuss their options for regaining the edge. They settled on burning down the rival, prosecutors say.
In January 2007, the Atlanta Fire Department and agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) responded to a fire at Club Onyx, an adult entertainment club. No one was hurt during the fire, but the owners of Club Onyx spent nearly $1 million to rebuild the facility and had to keep the club shuttered for over six months.
Investigators say that while they had concluded that it was arson, and surveillance video indicated a man had set the fire, they were initially unable to develop any leads on the identity of the alleged arsonist. In the summer, though, a lead eventually led investigators to a man who was employed at rival strip club Platinum 21. By the end the investigation, prosecutors were alleging that the man had conspired with two other Platinum 21 employees.
Prosecutors say that at the time of the blaze, Club Onyx had recently begun to compete with Platinum 21 for business and dancers. After revenue and profits began to fall, three Platinum 21 employees--a corporate manager, a manager, and the head of security--met and decided that they had to shut down the rival, discussing a variety of less extreme options before settling on the arson plan, prosecutors allege.
“Setting afire a rival business to gain a competitive edge is not only a threat to free enterprise; it is a crime of violence,” said Gregory Gant of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in Atlanta. “Every time a arsonist strikes a match, the loss of human life is a distinct possibility. ATF's arson enforcement efforts are directed toward preventing arson, providing effective post-incident response, and safeguarding our community from the impact of arson.”
The head of security and the corporate manager have since pleaded guilty to their involvement and received prison sentences of 5 years and 3 years, respectively. They also testified against the third indiviual, who was sentenced to 5 years in prison after a jury found him guilty.
Source: Justice Department