CLEVELAND-- A Cleveland strip club will have to pay more than $8 million to the family of a wrong-way crash victim.
Julio C. Vargas, now 43, was kicked out of Secrets Gentleman's Club on Brookpark Road at about 11:45 p.m. on April 5, 2014. Police said he drove onto the West 130th Street exit ramp and continued on Interstate 480 in the wrong direction. That's when Vargas hit another car head-on. The crash killed 22-year-old Desiree Snyder and injured her boyfriend.
Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge Deena Calabrese wrote Vargas didn't slip away from management unnoticed. Instead, he spent several minutes meeting face-to-face with the manager and even used a credit card that wasn't his.
According to court documents, Vargas was "extremely intoxicated" at the club and assaulted one of the dancers.
The manager testified he didn't call police because of the slow response time, but an off-duty, uniformed police officer was working at the club that night. That officer was not notified of the assault or that a drunk man was removed from the building, court documents said.
"It is clear to this court based on evidentiary record, and also particularly disturbing, that Secrets was more interested in running a cash transaction on [another woman's] credit card for its own benefits instead of getting its on-premise Cleveland Police Officer involved," Calabrese wrote.
Vargas' blood-alcohol content was between .263 and .265 at the time of the crash. Court documents said he had at least 13 drinks and was kicked out of Gigi's Lounge before going to Secrets. He did not have a valid driver's license.
"Had Secrets notified Officer of Vargas' extremely intoxicated condition, Vargas wouldn't have driven anywhere, and the crash that killed Desiree Snyder would not have occurred," the judge ruled.
Calabrese found Secrets negligent in Synder's death. She ruled the family should receive more than $24 million; a third from Secrets, a third from Gigi's Lounge and a third from Vargas.
Vargas pleaded guilty to multiple counts each of aggravated vehicular homicide, aggravated vehicular assault and driving under the influence on June 26, 2014. The following month, he was sentenced to 15 years in prison. He remains at the Marion Correctional Institution, according to the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction.