'Spearmint Rhino' lap-dancing clubs boss is convicted fraudster
By ADRIAN GATTON
The Independent, Feb 17, 2002
John Gray pretty much has it all. Cars, cash, planes and girls - especially girls. His Spearmint Rhino table dancing empire has made him wealthy. And he plans to have even more, to expand his empire from six clubs to 100. Now those plans are in doubt, after an Independent on Sunday investigation revealed that Mr Gray has not disclosed that he served a jail sentence for fraud.
Mr Gray, 45, originally from California, has two convictions and served time in his home state. Questioned last Thursday night about the jail sentence, Mr Gray flatly denied that he had any convictions for anything: "I've never been convicted of fraud."
However, after the IoS produced court documents Mr Gray changed his story, saying: "I was caught off guard." Adding that he now wished to be "candid", Mr Gray admitted to the convictions and apologised for his past.
Licensing authorities in Camden, where the European headquarters of the chain is based, may now re-examine its entertainment licence. The convictions were not known to Camden at the time the original licence was granted.
Spearmint Rhino's flagship club in Tottenham Court Road features nude girls who dance around poles or for clients at their tables. The club also has a number of booths where clients can ask girls for a private dance.
Mr Gray used several aliases in the United States, including Johnny Win, John Luciano and John Luciano Gianni. He refused to comment last week when asked about the names.
Spearmint Rhino has been a hit with City firms where prestigious clients have office parties at the club. On the back of his success, Mr Gray has just bought a mansion in Buckinghamshire for more than pounds 1m. He owns two Mercedes, a Cessna 421 plane and boasts ownership of a Gulfstream G4 private jet and a 55-ft boat. He says his personal wealth here is around $2m (pounds 1.25m).
Mr Gray started out running a building firm, Grayco Construction, in California. He got into the table-dancing business after opening a string of Peppermint Elephant restaurants across the state and later giving them the even more unlikely Spearmint Rhino branding. There are even rumours that he plans to float his company on the London stock exchange.
The disclosure of his convictions may prove a major setback. Councillor Ernest James, a barrister and former chairman of Camden Council's licensing committee, said: "I believe there are grounds for a major re-examination of Spearmint Rhino's licence in the light of these disclosures."
Mr Gray is the sole director of Spearmint Rhino Companies (Europe) Ltd, which holds the public entertainment licence from Camden. His date of birth is incorrectly given in Companies House records as 2 May 1957. Mr Gray, whose birthday was on Friday, told us yesterday that it was a clerical error that will be rectified. He added that the mistake arose from the way Americans write dates.
However, Mr James said: "If he has given inaccurate particulars, and in this case material particulars - because the police do checks based on the date of birth - then there is a question of whether the licence is voided."
A spokesman for Camden Council said: "The mistake might be relevant, especially regarding police checks. We don't know whether the police have checked Mr Gray. But they raised no objection at the original licensing hearing. But we would be interested to know and may well raise it with the police."
On Mr Gray's convictions, he added: "That may be material. We need to know more about the exact nature of the offences."
In August 1995, Mr Gray, then described as the owner of a Spearmint Rhino topless bar near Los Angeles, was arrested after 10 complaints that he had written cheques that bounced. As a result, Mr Gray was facing a potential five-year sentence. However, after plea bargaining, he was sentenced to six months in jail.
At the time of his sentencing, Mr Gray was already in a federal prison for an unrelated case of making a false statement to win a contract from the US Navy.
Mr Gray told the IoS that his financial problems arose following the illness and death of his father and problems from his father's construction firm. "I am ashamed of what I have done and I have paid my debt to society," he said. "I would not do it again and I have not erred since."
The club has had a number of recent setbacks. Two weeks ago, a waitress from the Tottenham Court Road club won pounds 60,000 in a sex discrimination case. The pregnant Miss Samantha McGaw, 27, wanted to wear a less revealing outfit at the club but bosses refused. She claimed that dancers were referred to by male colleagues as "mingers" and "wildebeest" and that managers allegedly used weekly planning meetings to discuss whom they would like to sleep with.
In July last year, Camden police said that, in their view, "activity within the club, intentionally or otherwise, borders on offences of prostitution and permitting the keeping of a brothel".
Subject: CIA MUSCLES IN ON PORN WARS IN HAWTHORNE, CALIFORNIA
Date: 10 Aug 2001 08:56:39 -0700
From: email@example.com (John Doe)
SAVVY SPOOKS KNOW: The word on the street is this: Two Armenian mob factions are being used and duped into a scrap over who gets to run the porn rackets and the trash hauling biz in the not so sleepy burg run by Goomba made guy, Larry Guidi, who can be bought off with a Harley Davidson motorcycle and some cold cash under the table.
Closed door meetings with Lowe's, a nebulous deal with an auto mega mall, allegations of disbarred lawyers like Carlos C. Yanez setting up shell companies, fronts and laundering money for City Councilwoman Ginny Lambert through her husband Olin at Prime Realty, owned by Batta Vujicic, is being looked at for among other things, tax evasion, racketeering, and more - these are some of the allegations that are swirling around this dive...
Guidi's website became a posting board by some truth tellers who got too close to the facts, and soon found their comments being wiped off the message board.
FBI, IRS rumored to be "crawling" all over, but it's the nefarious activity of one unscrupulous Private Investigator with ties to Ollie North, Iran Contra and a brother in the CIA who is on H&C and Sharp Recycling's payroll, that looks most interesting....
Mike Foster of Ocean Investigative Services, former FBI agent who was assigned as Mr. Fix It to Lawrence Walsh during Iran Contra hearings and who was Sirhan Sirhan's babysitter in prison (another CIA mind control case), is babysitting (read: spying on) Matt Bagdasarian and working both sides of the fence in an attempt to clear the way for bigger, more evil interests to take over the rackets in town.
Meanwhile, Guidi, Lambert, sweat.
Ray Asaro knows his cover is blown.
And those of us who know the real deal, are laughing all the way to the bank... .Jerry Jamgotchian's ties to Spearmint Rhino strip clubs are out in the open and the Bare Elegance is nervous ... it's the Gambinos vs. the Genovese and as usual, narco running porn peddling spooks hiding behind Foster want a piece of the action.