NOTE: This article reports on alleged rape and may not be suitable for all readers.
Two lawsuits have been filed in federal court against Jamy and Kamy Keshmiri, owners of the Spice House, Fantasy Girls and downtown’s Wild Orchid. A complaint filed in September alleged that dancers at the Spice House were denied fair wages, while a suit filed this week alleged that the Keshmiris encourage women to engage in prostitution, contribute to underage drinking, and “routinely engage in criminal activities on the premises of the Spice House.”
In particular, there was one case where a Spice House employee allegedly raped a dancer, said the plaintiff in the lawsuit.
“In June or July of 2019, plaintiff was sexually battered by a Spice House employee…” according to the suit, filed by attorney Mark Mausert. “[The defendant] served as a liaison between male customers and female dancers, i.e., he routinely set up sexual encounters, off-site and sometimes on-site, between dancers and customers.
“Plaintiff was offended by defendants’ practice of causing young women to become intoxicated and pressuring them into becoming prostitutes.”
Reno’s strip clubs are the object of the USA Today podcast, The City, which was launched this week, prompting the Keshmiris’ attorney, Mark Thierman, to call Mausert’s lawsuit a pile-on.
“It’s just sensationalism,” he told This Is Reno.
Thierman said he is defending the Keshmiri’s in the wage suit, but their insurance company will be responding to the suit alleging rape and prostitution.
“I think the lawsuit should be dismissed,” Thierman said. “The complaint is a bunch of nonsense. The employer is not guilty of anything if an employee goes rogue and violates clear company policy.
“The person who allegedly did the harassing was not a manager, but a co-worker, a DJ. The owners have limited control over what co-workers do, especially if the plaintiff did not complain. And this worker quit after the offending employee was fired. Why wait?”
Thierman said that the strip clubs operate above-board.
The City of Reno launched a secret investigation two years ago under the direction of the city attorney’s office. A private investigator reportedly witnessed criminal activities at various clubs.
The investigator’s report was hotly disputed at the time.
“I work at Fantasy Girls and we do not tolerate any ‘soliciting,'” said Shaylynn Ellis in 2017. “If we find out one of our dancers is offering ‘extra services’ she is fired, whether we find out when it happens at the club or find their ads posted to Backpage.”
Club owners have repeatedly denied that prostitution and trafficking occur on their premises.
“Only three cases of sex trafficking in the past three years have come out of any strip clubs in Nevada – not just Reno, that is all of Nevada,” Wild Orchid’s manager wrote in an opinion article on This Is Reno. “That is a low to zero score compared to other businesses. Our crime rate was equal or less than Silver Peak’s downtown location. And we are open many more hours at night when the crime rate is higher.”
Mausert, however, said that the clubs’ activities amount to what he called systemic prostitution.
“As a direct proximate result of being subject to a sexually hostile work environment plaintiff suffered emotional distress, fear, apprehension, loss of enjoyment of life, recurrent negative memories, and nightmares,” he wrote in the court filing. “It has been necessary for plaintiff to incur costs and retain counsel in order to vindicate her federally protected right to a workplace free of sexual hostility.”
Bob Conrad is publisher, editor and co-founder of This Is Reno. He has served in communications positions for various state agencies and earned a doctorate in educational leadership from the University of Nevada, Reno in 2011. In addition to managing This Is Reno, he holds a part-time appointment for the Mineral County University of Nevada Extension office.