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Bladensburg, Md., eatery Crossroads Nightclub and Restaurant was operating as normal last week, but owner Alton Gayle was tied up with more serious matters.
On Sept. 11 in Prince George’s County Circuit Court, Gayle pleaded guilty to one charge of willful failure to file return sales and use tax. The club owner’s plea agreement calls for him to pay $1,500 a month to the Maryland Comptroller’s Office until further ordered. (The court filing acknowledges that Gayle had already paid $26,000 of the balance owed.) He received a five-year suspended sentence and has been placed on five years of supervised probation.
This is not the first time Crossroads has been in the news: Prince George’s County shut down the establishment briefly in 2007 in relation to a shooting in its parking lot, and it suddenly closed for “maintenance” for several weeks in Dec. 2010, and again in Feb. 2011.
Gayle’s plea is quiet compared to the noise that came out of the county over the issue in the spring: At a May 22 press conference, Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Angela D. Alsobrooks announced that her office had indicted the owners of “seven illegal nightclubs” in the county—-including Crossroads—-charging them with tax, alcohol, and licensing violations. The establishments together were alleged to owe over $700,000 in back taxes and fees.
Gayle was originally facing eight charges relating to failure to pay sales, admissions, and alcohol taxes, and failure to properly license his eatery and nightspot to sell alcohol and operate billiards tables. According to documents acquired by City Paper, the county utilized undercover officers to make its case, eventually obtaining search warrants to gain access to the club’s books between Jan. 2007 and Sept. 2011. An audit found that Crossroads owed the state of Maryland $538,180.97. Gayle originally pleaded not guilty.
John Erzen, communications director for the Office of the State’s Attorney, says that a plea agreement was also reached with the owner of another indicted establishment, Plaza 23 in Temple Hills, Md. The actions against the other five indicted clubs are ongoing.
When asked about the deals reached, Erzen said, “We feel this is a good way to put teeth behind the sentencing so everyone will know if you don’t make these payments, you’ll be facing jail time.”