Broward News

[UPDATED] Red Flags at El Toro Loco Last Year, but State Failed to Take Charge

​The Florida Division of Alcohol Beverages and Tobacco is reeling after this article in today's Palm Beach Post reported that agents overlooked evidence within their own files that showed an ex-felon was the secret operator of nightclubs that just so happened to be prone to violence and linked with sex slavery.

The Post's findings have prompted the state agency to launch an investigation, which is clearly overdue. In fact, I thought the state had already launched that investigation last December, when I pointed out to state officials that two El Toro Loco locations on South Military Trail had been the site of at least three extremely violent episodes.

Last December, I called ABT in connection with this post, in which I found that the El Toro Loco location at 2928 S. Military Trail was the common denominator in a January 2009 drug-related stabbing death and the August 2009 discovery of a teenager's dead body. Another El Toro Loco, also known as Jimmy's Cafe, at 1999 S. Military Trail, was the site of a December 2009 brawl that ended with a man being shot in the chest.

According to the Post article, those two clubs were both run by Anthony Genovese, an underworld figure with a 2000 felony conviction for fraud and conspiracy.

The Palm Beach Sheriff's Office told me last year that its investigators were aware of the violence associated with the South Military Trail clubs but that only state regulators had the authority to close the club. PBSO said that it was working with the state to make a case for the clubs being a nuisance, based on parking violations.

If so, it's astonishing that those same state agents didn't take the time to simply look within their own files for the evidence they needed to launch a more wide-ranging investigation of the clubs that were so consistently linked to violence.

UPDATE: A spokeswoman for ABT, Alexis Lambert, told me this afternoon that the agency opened an investigation of El Toro Loco on July 27. That's more than seven months after I called the agency to ask why it had not initiated an investigation of the nightclub based on the violent incidents that had already taken place there.

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Thomas Francis