Sopranos strip club shut down for real-life mafia dealings

A New Jersey strip club where The Sopranos was filmed has been shut down by local authorities due to flouting of the law by its mafia-linked owner.

In the series, Tony Soprano, the Italian American mafia boss played by the late James Gandolfini, conducted some of his most important business at the fictitious Bada Bing club. Hits on rivals were ordered at the bar; alliances were made and bonds broken in the booths; and money exchanged hands in the backroom, which doubled as Soprano’s office.

Satin Dolls, the New Jersey strip club that doubled as the Bada Bing on "The Sopranos" 

For all six series of the much-loved show, which ended in 2007, Satin Dolls strip club in Lodi, New Jersey, served as the setting for the Bada Bing club – and capitalised on its fame, with tours coming through and even an auction of some of the furnishings.

Yet last week the club was shut down after the owner, who had plead guilty to racketeering alongside “Uncle Sonny” (also known as Papa Smurf), Muzzy and Lodi Pete, was accused of mafia links and under-the-table accounting.

“Illegal activity was glorified at the Bada Bing in the fictional world of Tony Soprano, but it has no place in modern-day New Jersey,” said Christopher Porrino, attorney general for the state. “It’s time to shut it down.”

The venue has now served its last drink, and the owners have until January 3 to sell or transfer their liquor licence.

And Anthony “Tony Lodi” Cardinalle, the 65-year-old owner, had a long history of run-ins with the law.

In 1995 he admitted evading taxes on income derived from his two companies – Cots Inc. and A&J Entertainment Inc. – which owned strip clubs in the rough and ready towns of Secaucus and North Bergen.

His father, Anthony Sr, who died in 1988, had introduced Cardinalle to the mob, according to court statements from Alan Silber, Cardinalle’s lawyer.

“Cardinalle’s experience and relationship with the Genovese crime family was a legacy from his father’s association with it,” the lawyer said.

The club has been ordered to shut down

Mr Silber said that Cardinalle became involved in a criminal enterprise, carried out at some of his strip clubs, in a bid to recoup $25,000 (£19,000) owed in rent on property he owned.

In 2013 he was one of 32 reputed mobsters and mob associates charged in a federal crackdown on mafia control over commercial waste hauling in New York and New Jersey.

Federal prosecutors in Manhattan charged him with participating in a racketeering enterprise in which members of the Genovese, Gambino and Luchese crime families exercised illegal control over waste haulers.

“I knew there were secret mob interests in the deal that Frank Oliver and Peter ‘Lodi Pete’ LeConte wanted to make to create a new garbage company,” Cardinalle told the judge.

“I thought it was their deal, not mine, so I ignored the fact that the mob was part of the deal.”

Cardinalle was caught on a wire tap with LeConte and Oliver, telling Charles Hughes, an FBI informant, that they would be taking control of him and his waste hauling company from aging Genovese gangster “Papa Smurf”, Carmine Franco.

Cardinalle was also caught on the wiretap collecting one of his $500 weekly installments of protection money from Hughes.

James Gandolfini (far left) as Tony Soprano in the fictional Bada Bing club

The court then heard from William Pepe, manager of Satin Dolls, that he witnessed one of Cardinalle’s co-defendants, Howard Ross, “essentially holding court at the bar” of the Lodi club.

In true Soprano style, Ross was alleged to have been recounting “grandiose stories” of his life as a major drug dealer, trying to drum up financing for various scams, and “bragging about his mafia connections.”

Cardinalle pleaded guilty in December 2013 to the two counts in which he was charged – racketeering conspiracy and conspiracy to commit extortion – and admitted his role in a plot to “shake down” Hughes.

He faced up to 40 years in prison, but was spared the full force of the law by becoming a “turncoat” and cooperating with federal prosecutors. He was sentenced instead to 30 days in jail, with a $10,000 fine and an order to repay the $3,400 that he extorted from Hughes, the FBI informer in the case.

People watching the last episode of The Sopranos at Satin Dolls

His 2013 charges disqualified him from running his strip club businesses.

But last week prosecutors in New Jersey said he had continued to manage the firm, despite it officially being run by his daughter Loren.

Furthermore, they failed to account for large amounts of cash flowing in and out of the businesses.

“The Cardinalles may have wanted to keep the business in the family, but that’s not how it works,” said Mr Porrino.

“Their continued flouting of alcoholic beverage control laws cannot and will not be tolerated.”

A man who answered the phone at the club told The Telegraph they had no comment.

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