A former owner and two managers of a former Dodge County strip club have agreed to plead guilty to charges they encouraged prostitution by working with pimps and ignored physical abuse to women.
Michael Siegel of Fox Lake owned The Hardware Store — a since-closed strip club in Clyman — from approximately 2009 to 2019. In December 2019, he and a manager, Scott Hoeft of Watertown, were indicted on federal sex trafficking charges that were alleged to have taken place between 2009 and 2018. The two filed plea agreements with federal prosecutors in the Eastern District of Wisconsin on April 21, but a plea hearing has yet to be scheduled because of the pandemic.
Also, Siegel’s brother, William, who managed The Hardware Store from 2009 to 2019, is also implicated. William D. Siegel was in charge of hiring and firing dancers. He was charged on April 30 with conspiracy to promote prostitution and filed an agreement to plead guilty the same day, according to court records.
According to the indictment, the first count alleges Michael Siegel and Hoeft conspired with each other to use the facilities to promote, manage and carry on prostitution. The second count alleges that Siegel made false statements to law enforcement investigating human trafficking in April 2018.
The indictment also alleges that, as part of a criminal conspiracy, Hoeft and Siegel and his brother generated revenue at The Hardware Store by making the club’s lap dance and champagne rooms available for prostitution. The indictment alleges that as a part of the conspiracy, Hoeft and Siegel hired and employed dancers willing to perform illegal acts, including women that they knew were working for pimps. Prosecutors say the suspects sent text messages and used Facebook Messenger to communicate with dancers and pimps. In addition, customers were allowed to use credit cards to obtain cash to pay dancers directly for illegal acts.
If convicted of conspiracy to promote prostitution, the Siegels and Hoeft face up to five years in prison. If convicted of count two, which is making false statements to law enforcement, Michael Siegel faces up to eight years in prison. Each count carries a maximum fine of $250,000.
The Hardware Store, 942 Main St., first came under scrutiny after Christopher Childs, 47 of Hartford, was indicted in April 2018 in federal court on sex trafficking charges alleging that four women were forced to dance at area strip clubs for no pay and perform sexual acts for money that he took from the women. The offenses reportedly happened at TNT Gentlemen’s Club, which has since closed, in Lebanon.
The tentative plea agreement indicates Childs would serve a minimum term of 15 years in prison and a maximum life prison sentence with a maximum three years of supervised release and no more than $250,000 in fines.
Siegel, who owned The Hardware Store and, at the same time, was village president in Clyman, said in a telephone interview with the Daily Times in April 2018 he didn’t want to place any “embarrassment” on the village so he decided to leave his post.
“I want to stay focused on the business so we don’t become victims and also to make sure there are no other victims,” Siegel said during the phone interview.
Siegel also said during the same interview that Childs would occasionally stop in at The Hardware Store, but so did others.
“All kinds of people came into the club,” he said. “This is a horrible thing to have happen. We were not ready for a predator like this. Not that he (Childs) showed us what he was into because we never saw a hint of that behavior.”
Siegel’s club gained additional spotlight after two people were arrested in September 2018 on prostitution charges.
Dodge County Sheriff Dale Schmidt told the Daily Times following the incident he was in full uniform while conducting a routine bar check at the establishment when he caught a Hardware Store employee in a sex act with a customer.
The Hardware Store closed Jan. 1, 2019. When a Daily Times reporter attempted to contact him, Siegel refused to comment on the club’s closing.