They also discovered the club was registered as a massage parlor, not a brothel. Its Colombian dancers were in Panama on six-month tourist visas, weren't licensed as prostitutes, and weren't getting required weekly health checkups. Prosecutors charged Galeota and Fainberg with not only drug dealing but also human trafficking.

Galeota was crammed into a sweltering holding cell with 150 others. Anthony Jr. was taken to a juvenile detention center that wasn't much better. Kristy was able to pay a lawyer $500 to get her son released, but there was no bond for Galeota's drug offense. Two days later, he was transferred to La Joya — a hellish cinder-block complex an hour outside of Panama City.

As he sweated in jail, Galeota's Panamanian empire crumbled. Three weeks after the Doll House raid, Kristy was working the bar at Bongos when three teenagers walked into the restaurant. The last one locked the door.

"Everybody give me your money!" one of the kids shouted as he pulled a handkerchief over his face and wildly swung a revolver. After that, Kristy closed Bongos.

The nightmare deepened for Galeota. Panamanian newspapers put "Operation Fiesta" on the front page as prosecutors alleged Galeota was part of an international crime ring. Banks seized all seven of his apartments. Kristy and his sons hid in a shabby, poorly protected office. They finally fled the country this past July, leaving Tony alone. Inside La Joya, he had paid a guard to smuggle in a BlackBerry to talk to his wife, but strangers kept calling with threats to kill his kids unless he paid them.

"They would describe what they looked like," Galeota says. "Then they'd tell me: 'They are as good as dead.' "

Panama had gone from paradise to purgatory.


At the entrance to La Joya, ant hills and wasp nests surround a wooden sign. In hand-painted white lettering, it reads, "Dear visitors. All the services here are free. If any official asks you to pay for anything, please report them."

Inside the prison, the sign is a running joke. La Joya is flush with contraband, from cell phones and cigarettes to marijuana and handguns — all of it brought in with the complicity of corrupt guards. During a visit last month, a New Times reporter witnessed one police official receive a $20 bill in a barely disguised handshake.

"That clean, business-friendly, postcard-Panama bullshit is just a façade," Galeota says. "This country is corrupt. Everything here has a cost."

For a while, Panama's pay-to-play culture suited Galeota just fine. He and Fainberg were on their way to riches thanks to powerful friends and legalized prostitution. But then the country's corrupt system turned on them. The irony is not lost on Galeota that after a life of crime in Miami, he was arrested in Panama just as he was going legit.

"The worst part of being in here is being in here for nothing. Prostitution is legal in Panama," he complains. "Maybe we didn't have the permits we were supposed to have, but we're foreigners who didn't understand the rules."

On a crowded balcony overlooking La Joya, Galeota describes the past 16 months as a nightmare. Prisoners eat stale bread and a slice of cheese for breakfast; rice — and sometimes beans — is their lunch and dinner. Days go by without water, and when it does arrive, it's turbid sludge from a nearby river. Rats, roaches, and beetles the size of Chihuahuas crawl over inmates at night.

It could be worse. When Galeota arrived, his mobster reputation preceded him. While another new prisoner was beaten and robbed, Galeota was untouched. Luckier still, a powerful Colombian inmate named Mauricio Ramírez recognized Galeota from his restaurant. He offered protection and gave Galeota $200.

At night, the guards lock the gate and leave, turning over control of each cell block to prisoners. Galeota has seen several murders. One man stabbed someone over a $10 debt. When one inmate killed another, the dead man's gang on the outside murdered the inmate's entire family, Galeota says. The dead and dying are piled into wheelbarrows and left by the front gate until guards arrive in the morning.

"I'm in survival mode now," Galeota says, adding that he agonizes over being imprisoned for what he believes are unjust charges. "We treated the women well."

For the most part, Doll House dancers agree. In court statements and interviews with New Times, they said Galeota gave them contracts to sign, cell phones and computers to use, and apartments in which to live.

"He never forced us to do anything. We didn't even have to have sex unless we wanted to," says a Colombian stripper named Catherine. She is cute and curvy with dark hair and a button nose. Catherine says she slept with customers because she needed the money to support her family. "It's not an easy choice," she says. "But I did it for my child."

Unfortunately, Galeota's defense isn't as simple as quoting strippers, says his lawyer, Guillermina McDonald. She is a high-powered attorney who has defended two former presidents in corruption cases, but even she hasn't been able to get Galeota out of jail yet. Panama's judicial system is outdated and overburdened, she says.

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