MARYLAND

Nightclubs in Prince George's County face criminal charges

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State and local officials accused nightclubs in Prince George's County of violating various state tax, alcohol and licensing regulations.

Prince George's County has filed criminal charges against seven area nightclubs.

Officials says the clubs failed to pay about $700,000 in taxes. Maryland Controller Peter Franchot says the clubs were "thumbing their nose at the state."

New business owners say it's alleged activity like this that's giving them a bad rap.

Stan Askew and his business partners own Phasez Nightclub. ASkew says, "We want everything to be right because we have to be right. By other people doing things, it makes it hard for us to do business."

Askew knows he and his business partners are taking a gamble by opening a nightclub in Laurel Hills when several clubs nearby are under fire.

Bernard Brown, also with Phasez Nightclub, says, "They should have gotten all their proper permits like we did."

But , Franchot says they didn't. Instead, by ignoring the rules, what the accused clubs owe the state could top one million dollars.

Prince George's County Police Chief Mark Magaw adds, "As long as you stay within those policies and permits, we'll support your business, but when you cross that line like many of these nightclubs have done,...we're going to come after you with everything we have."

Magaw says the investigation began last June and has revealed tax, alcohol and licensing violations at the clubs.

All but one of the clubs are currently closed.

State's Attorney Angela Alsobrooks says, "Any business, any venture that wreaks havoc on our neighborhoods, we are going to be very aggressive in dealing with them."

The new owners of Phasez hope to lead by example and give nightlife in Prince George's County a better reputation. .

"People come and have a good time, basically," Brown says.

The violations the seven clubs are accused of are punishable by up to five years behind bars, with fines as steep as $10,000.

Officials credit their recent night club scrutiny to a 40 percent drop in homicides this year compared to the same time last year. Shootings in the area are also down dramatically .

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