Strip club owner off to jail for tax fraud

by Vincent Davis on February 11, 2013

Strip club owner over his head in successA suburban strip club owner who didn’t pay taxes on $12 million in cash he stashed away was sentenced Friday to a year in prison followed by six months of home confinement after it was revealed he had provided extensive cooperation to the government.

Michael Wellek had been charged with failing to file income tax returns for a dozen years even though his clubs — Heavenly Bodies in Elk Grove Village, Skybox in Harvey and Cowboys in Markham — generated millions of dollars.

“What I did was wrong,” a tearful Wellek told U.S. District Judge Joan Lefkow moments before she handed down the sentence. “I take full responsibility for my actions, and I am very, very sorry.”

Wellek, 63, of Libertyville, told the judge he was so ashamed he asked his wife not to attend the sentencing. Instead, she wrote a letter on his behalf.

Wellek pleaded guilty in November to impeding an Internal Revenue Service investigation and filing a false income tax return in 2000. He faced up to four years in prison under federal sentencing guidelines, but prosecutors recommended 18 months in prison in return for his cooperation. The defense sought probation.

“It was greed, pure and simple, and he just didn’t want to pay,” said Assistant U.S. Atty. Patrick King.

Terry Ekl, Wellek’s attorney, who declined to discuss the nature of his client’s cooperation, told the judge that Wellek was pursuing the American dream by owning a business but conceded, “He was probably in over his head.”

While investigating Wellek in 2003, federal agents discovered — and then seized — $12 million in cash stored in duffel bags in a warehouse located near Heavenly Bodies. As part of his plea deal, Wellek has paid $5.5 million in restitution. On Friday, the judge also fined him $75,000 and ordered an additional $363,000 in restitution. He is to report to prison in June.

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