Update: American Express will refund Michael Vernon's money, according to a settlement agreement. In return, Amex will be dropped from the suit. The refund appears to bolster Vernon's claims that Treasures staff made unauthorized charges to his card, and may have also forged receipts.
Vernon told us in an e-mail that, as far as Amex is concerned, "The matter has been fully resolved to my complete satisfaction. Specific terms of the settlement are confidential, but all charges have been reversed and a credit has been issued to my account." He adds that he's happy Treasures has not profited from its alleged wrongdoing. As for Treasures still being part of the suit, he writes, "Negotiations with Treasures are still ongoing. They have provided documentation of insurance and I expect a resolution very soon."
Last September, Michael Vernon had just moved from out of state, where he was a managing partner in a law firm, to Houston for a new job. He'd only been in town for a few hours when he and his buddy decided they wanted to see some boobs, and maybe help some young, tattooed women who were working their way through college, so they headed to Treasures.
But what should have been an enjoyable evening of cocktails and refined conversation turned ugly, according to a suit Vernon filed October 12, accusing Treasures staff of forging his signature on more than $8,000 worth of American Express charges, stealing his Rolex and then assaulting him when he objected to the alleged skullduggery.
The 31-year-old Vernon is also suing American Express for not refunding charges signed with what his attorney, Matt Probus, says are not Vernon's signatures. (Vernon only admits to signing a $5,253 tab under duress, in order to get his credit card and driver's license back from the manager. Probus tells Hair Balls that his client never approved the $3,000-odd in "dancer authorization vouchers.")
We found the Rolex claim especially interesting, as, per the suit: "At one point in the evening, one of the dancers asked to see Vernon's watch. He took it off of his wrist and handed it to her. Another dancer then distracted him while the dancer with his watch walked off." (This would never happen to Hair Balls, as we only wear a Swatch.)
Treasures attorney Albert Van Huff denied the allegations, and further stated that it's not unusual for customers, in the light of the next day (or month), to regret spending more money than they anticipated, and then trumping up some false claims in order to get a refund. He also said that American Express's arbitration provision will probably result in the case being tossed out and referred to arbitration.
Of course, there's always the matter of the assault -- Probus says Vernon filed a police report shortly after the assault. Probus also said he's asked to review security camera footage, which he says will show that Vernon never got a lap dance. (Probus also says that Vernon and his friend were only at the club for 90-120 minutes and couldn't have gotten the number of dances reflected in the vouchers).
"It's physically impossible to run up the charges he got," Probus told us.
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If this alleged incident occurred in October, we have no doubt that there'd be enough security camera footage to review, since Harris County District Judge Alexandra Smoots-Hogan ordered the club to install more cameras (and hire more security guards) on September 11.
Treasures is getting a lot of attention lately. The County Attorney's office believes the club is a festering whore-den (that's our patent-pending contraction of "whorehouse" and "drug den").
It'll be interesting to see if there's any truth to Vernon's claims, or if this is just one of those oh-my-God-what-did-I-do-last-night moments Van Huff was talking about. We shall stay on it.