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This time, I'm innocent.
October 7, 2012 1:44 PM   Subscribe

Since the 80s Tony Galeota managed Porky's, a Hialeah dive notorious for drugs, prostitution, and violence, where he was part pimp, part bouncer, and completely untouchable. When he left to open a bona fide brothel in Panama, Galeota thought the country's lax prostitution laws (NSFW) would make him rich. Instead, he's trapped in a labyrinthine legal system, alone and unable to speak Spanish.
posted by Potomac Avenue (58 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite

 
Reading that story is like eating an asshole burrito.
posted by Sebmojo at 1:50 PM on October 7, 2012 [14 favorites]


Couldn't have happened to a nicer guy.
posted by Faint of Butt at 2:03 PM on October 7, 2012 [8 favorites]


I gave each of my kids a Rolex when they were 5 years old. This business has been very good to me.

There are times when I wake up and look in the mirror and realize just how normal and boring and wonderful my life is.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:05 PM on October 7, 2012 [25 favorites]


colonialist 0
natives 1
posted by liza at 2:10 PM on October 7, 2012 [14 favorites]


sowing/reaping
karma
eye for an eye
get what you pay for
paying the piper
etc
etc

damn, there are enough cliche phrases and words that this guy should have heard one and bought a clue along the way....

nope, not feeling sorry for him...
posted by HuronBob at 2:11 PM on October 7, 2012


Sixteen months and he still can't speak Spanish?

Be more American, Tony.
posted by Talez at 2:12 PM on October 7, 2012 [5 favorites]


Schadenfreude is not a good thing. Very enjoyable, though...
posted by Skeptic at 2:14 PM on October 7, 2012


The most interesting thing about this story to me is how he got away with breaking every supposedly strict sex law he could think of in the US, moved to a place where his gross profession is more legalized, and got busted for being unable to play by the rules. Not sure if it's a representative story but still, seems to me part of the argument for decriminalizing the sex industry so that scumbags who exploit their workers can get hammered for it!
posted by Potomac Avenue at 2:18 PM on October 7, 2012 [15 favorites]


Huh. Shame about him not getting those permits in on time. His wife's a piece of work, too. And at the end, he's saying he's not rehabilitated in the least.

Would be nice if some of the women he trafficked could see him drinking out of that ditch now.
posted by Houstonian at 2:18 PM on October 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


Sixteen months and he still can't speak Spanish?

Ran a club in Miami since 1991 and can't speak Spanish?
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 2:18 PM on October 7, 2012 [38 favorites]


"Maybe we didn't have the permits we were supposed to have, but we're foreigners who didn't understand the rules."

AH HA Ha Ha Ha Ha *Gigglesnort*

It is a shame he appears to not be getting due process, if that is indeed that case, but I'm having an awful hard time summoning up any kind of sympathy for this human trafficker, drug smuggler, and thug mobster.
posted by Blasdelb at 2:20 PM on October 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


seems to me part of the argument for decriminalizing the sex industry so that scumbags who exploit their workers can get hammered for it!

Or, you know, they could work for themselves instead of having a pimp take their money. They could even form a union and be protected by the police when customers cause problems.
posted by Houstonian at 2:21 PM on October 7, 2012 [7 favorites]


He made the same mistake a lot of people do about third world countries; he thought he was superior to them just because he was American. Most of us don't get the chance to fuck up on that assumption quite so spectacularly.

Third world countries love rules, and they love enforcing rules, especially against stupid Americans who think they are better than the locals. It's a good idea to understand that even if you do something as minor as driving your car into Mexico, much less trying to set up a brothel in Panama.
posted by localroger at 2:24 PM on October 7, 2012 [8 favorites]


From the panama-guide.com article: The first one I run into is for the ladies, on Encuentra24.com an add for a "tall black guy, athletic, will only make house calls or to hotels. 6509-7283" (emphasis mine)

ahahaha, no.
posted by desjardins at 2:26 PM on October 7, 2012 [11 favorites]


The most interesting thing about this story to me is how he got away with breaking every supposedly strict sex law he could think of in the US, moved to a place where his gross profession is more legalized, and got busted for being unable to play by the rules.

I think he's rotting in jail right now not because Panama has some great police and judicial system, but rather because authorities wanted to make an example of someone. They found the most obnoxious foreigner they could, locked him up, and tossed away the key. It doesn't seem to matter what the charges are: he's been sitting in that hell hole for 16 months without even a court date.

Not that he doesn't belong there. But you can't draw the conclusion from this story that "Only if prostitution were legal in America..."
posted by sbutler at 2:46 PM on October 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm having difficulty conjuring up much sympathy for him. For the women who worked for him, yes; but for him, negligible.
posted by arcticseal at 2:47 PM on October 7, 2012


Three sons! Jesus, what are the chances they aren't all poisonous snakes like he is? Still, I can't imagine what it's like to have a top-heavy luxurious life routinely threatened by strangers.

Even so, I can't decide if I feel like he deserves to live with the giant beetles or not. I can't decide if anyone deserves to live with the giant beetles.
posted by Countess Elena at 2:47 PM on October 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm curious to see what the giant beetles have to say about living with someone as odious as him.
posted by arcticseal at 2:50 PM on October 7, 2012 [14 favorites]


I'm sure all the good, rock steady friends he's made along the way, the kind who are there fair weather and foul, will help him out.
posted by zippy at 2:57 PM on October 7, 2012 [5 favorites]


It occurs to me that it is also quite possible that he has fucked up not because of anything legal, but because he was stepping on some entity that thinks it owns the territory he was stepping on.

I've been to Panama a couple of times thanks to the birdwatching wife. As Central American countries go, it has its shit together. Their currency is the American dollar -- they call it the Balboa, but it has George Washington's picture on the $1 and the spiel you get is that "the US mint prints Balboas for Panama under a special arrangement" or some such malarky. International banking, and its humpbacked cousin money laundering, are a major industry.

The Mafia has a lot of their money in Panama, and if you should ever visit Panama City you will find a surprisingly good array of Italian restaurants occasionally patronised by small groups of very italian men in very shiny suits. I have not been there very much and have seen plenty of spoor so this is obviously a thing. The tightening of money laundering laws doesn't much affect money that's been there since 1930.

In the US Galeota was the operator. He probably didn't realize he was walking into an established territory where his presence would be tolerated about as much as he would tolerate competition on his turf. But he thought he was better than those third worlders and didn't realize how much, even as a quasi-criminal, the US justice system protected him in ways he doesn't enjoy outside the US.
posted by localroger at 3:11 PM on October 7, 2012 [21 favorites]


Indiegogo fundraiser here. THEY ARE DESPERATE IN A FOREIGN COUNTRY! (the article says his wife and kids are back in the US now).
posted by crabintheocean at 3:25 PM on October 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


Yeah, the telling detail in the last link is that three brothels were shut down, but only Galeota's are still closed. The Havana Club is run by someone else, who is presumably better connected or just able to pay better bribes.
posted by Kevin Street at 3:26 PM on October 7, 2012


$0

Raised of $25,000 Goal


Brb going to max out my credit card for tony's defense.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 3:28 PM on October 7, 2012


The family saved up for years to open a restaurant in a tropical paradise, Panama.

Mhm.
posted by steamynachos at 3:30 PM on October 7, 2012


"Even the American Embassy has contributed very little to helping the family."

I can't imagine why not.
posted by Kevin Street at 3:33 PM on October 7, 2012


Can we just agree that "sex work" is not anything that can ever be good?

Can we say being "sex worker positive" is like being "child labor positive" or "slavery positive"?

I'm willing to live with the sex trade as an unfortunate reality, but it is stuff like this that makes think there is no way to legitimize it.
posted by roboton666 at 3:56 PM on October 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


Indiegogo fundraiser here. THEY ARE DESPERATE IN A FOREIGN COUNTRY!

I wish I could donate an animated gif of some large land animal taking a massive crap and have it appear on the page.
posted by elizardbits at 4:05 PM on October 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


I have no idea if legalized prostitution could be done in a legal and safe manner that made it like any other profession, or what that would mean for the physical and psychological health of the women involved. But it is apparent that legalizing prostitution in an environment characterized by extreme poverty, corruption and massive organized crime doesn't help anybody but the criminals, who continue to maintain the same organizations as before. Or in this case, continue to defend their territory against newcomers.
posted by Kevin Street at 4:09 PM on October 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


If his mob connections keep him safe in prison, why don't they get him out of said prison?
posted by tommasz at 4:16 PM on October 7, 2012


Can we say being "sex worker positive" is like being "child labor positive" or "slavery positive"?

Being sex-worker positive would be about the person, yes? I think the parallel constructs you've given are about the work, rather than the individual. One can feel compassion for the person, without thinking the conditions of their work are OK (so, yeah, not a whole lot of "child-labor positive", so much as "positive towards children, whatever their situation.")
posted by zippy at 4:22 PM on October 7, 2012 [4 favorites]


Can we just agree that "sex work" is not anything that can ever be good?

As long as we can say the same about the textile industry that "employs" 50% of the world's slaves, I'm good to go.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 4:24 PM on October 7, 2012 [10 favorites]


I have no idea if legalized prostitution could be done in a legal and safe manner that made it like any other profession

New Zealand and Australia have done exemplary jobs.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 4:26 PM on October 7, 2012 [5 favorites]


But it is apparent that legalizing prostitution in an environment characterized by extreme poverty, corruption and massive organized crime doesn't help anybody but the criminals, who continue to maintain the same organizations as before.

Although, I mean, you have to say the same thing about garment production or logging, or any other industry. Which just brings you back to the same fundamental questions about whether sex work is inherently different that debates about it always hinge on.

I can't help feeling a little pang of something for this story. Something like that vertigo/imp of the perverse feeling maybe? It's quite a visceral telling of what it must be like to take significant control over your own life (and many others) absolutely for granted, make a misjudgement and suddenly have about as little control as it's possible to have.

It's probably also because I have a baby and any story that even touches on someone's kid being in the remotest peril gets me a little, and also because I was once briefly DESPERATE IN A FOREIGN COUNTRY. But then I remember that I went to Italy for a protest, not to Panama to set up a chain of brothels (and my kid doesn't have a rolex or any hookers - I'm sure that guy has started his sons early) and my tiny pangs of empathy evaporate instantly.
posted by crabintheocean at 4:28 PM on October 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


Can we just agree that "sex work" is not anything that can ever be good?

Can we say being "sex worker positive" is like being "child labor positive" or "slavery positive"?

I'm willing to live with the sex trade as an unfortunate reality, but it is stuff like this that makes think there is no way to legitimize it.


We can't 'just agree' to that, no. You know prostitution is legal in lots of places, and in those places, sex workers can call the police and publicly organize for their own rights and protections. It's pretty great actually.
posted by showbiz_liz at 4:29 PM on October 7, 2012 [17 favorites]


"New Zealand and Australia have done exemplary jobs."

Not saying it can't be done, just that you need an environment of relative income equality, strong laws and few gangsters.
posted by Kevin Street at 4:32 PM on October 7, 2012


Can we say being "sex worker positive" is like being "child labor positive" or "slavery positive"?

Two of these are intrinsically coercive, one of them isn't. The notion that sex-work automatically equates to exploitation in a manner qualitatively different from other transactional relationships is not the sort of notion we can just agree to without good reasons.
posted by howfar at 4:37 PM on October 7, 2012 [4 favorites]


From the panama-guide.com article: The first one I run into is for the ladies, on Encuentra24.com an add for a "tall black guy, athletic, will only make house calls or to hotels. 6509-7283" (emphasis mine)

ahahaha, no.


Well, in fairness, maybe he'd also work with the ladies.

Can we just agree that "sex work" is not anything that can ever be good?

Can we say being "sex worker positive" is like being "child labor positive" or "slavery positive"?


Not just no, but fuck no. Talk to some real life sex worker organizers and get back to me on this one, ok?
posted by Forktine at 4:51 PM on October 7, 2012 [4 favorites]


you need an environment of relative income equality, strong laws and few gangsters.

And if you don't have such an environment the solution is to criminalize who, exactly?
posted by localroger at 4:51 PM on October 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


He made the same mistake a lot of people do about third world countries; he thought he was superior to them just because he was American. Most of us don't get the chance to fuck up on that assumption quite so spectacularly.

Third world countries love rules, and they love enforcing rules, especially against stupid Americans who think they are better than the locals. It's a good idea to understand that even if you do something as minor as driving your car into Mexico, much less trying to set up a brothel in Panama.


It's also possible that he thought he had made the right connections and payments, and instead got taken like a rube. The funny thing is that the trope of the big-shot American or European going to the third world and getting fleeced for every penny has shown up in dozens of movies and books; this isn't something you have to dig deep to find. The article says he has mob connections, but that sounds like just one in a very long list of things he misjudged.

(I also like how the "related content" includes Remains of 100 People, Including Brains and Lungs, Found in Florida Storage Unit and Eight Reasons Why Florida is a Real-Life Horror Movie -- he might well be safer in a Panamanian prison.)
posted by Forktine at 4:59 PM on October 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think, at the end of your life, the best you can hope for is, "I didn't hurt any more people/creatures/life/the Earth than I had to to get by."

This guy went over his limit. And karma is coming back to bite him, even though he isn't dead yet.
posted by SPrintF at 5:03 PM on October 7, 2012


And as the beetles approach, they will whisper, "Brother, why do you shy from us? You have always fed on the pain of others, feasted on their flesh. Come, Brother, let us embrace you. Let us feed."
posted by SPrintF at 5:09 PM on October 7, 2012 [8 favorites]


Can we just agree that "sex work" is not anything that can ever be good?

Nope.

Can we say being "sex worker positive" is like being "child labor positive" or "slavery positive"?

LOLNOPE
posted by tzikeh at 5:17 PM on October 7, 2012 [5 favorites]


Natives 1
Colonialists 1,000,000 (from past scores)
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 5:38 PM on October 7, 2012


New Zealand and Australia have done exemplary jobs.

Australia is a patchwork of legislation on sex workers and shouldn't be considered homogeneous just an FYI.
posted by Talez at 6:33 PM on October 7, 2012


I'm incredibly shocked at the reaction to this article. Metafilter is not generally a place where I expect to encounter near-universal schadenfreude in response to stories about human rights abuses in prison.

This man may (or may not) have committed some serious (or unserious) crimes in the United States and Panama. He has not been convicted of any crime; in fact, he has yet to see a judge to determine whether there is enough evidence to have a trial about the allegations against him. And yet he sits every day in a grossly overcrowded, unsanitary prison where murder and other violent abuse runs rampant. He may very well be killed or beaten or raped, or simply die of a communicable disease, with no protection from the authorities, all before he sees the inside of a courtroom. He sits largely defenseless, both from the criminal charges he faces in court and from daily life in a prison whose cruelty is unfathomable to most of us from where we sit.

I have seen the people of Metafilter come together to condemn prison rape, and the death penalty, and prosecutorial misconduct, and torture. When people are accused of murder and terrorism and other heinous crimes, people here have still said that there is a line that societies must not cross, because if we sink too far into vengeance, we're letting cruelty win. I have been proud to be a part of this community when people here have stood up for the view that no matter what people may be accused of doing, they are entitled to respect for their basic rights as human beings.

This man is not receiving that fundamental human decency that is due to all of us. He's not receiving it from the Panamanian government, nor from the U.S. government, nor from many of the readers here. And I think that's shameful, no matter what crimes he may have committed. I'm upset that, having read the description of the way he has been treated, people here are snickering and gloating and being glib. I suppose I should expect it, given that we live in a world where "dropping the soap" jokes are still common on prime time TV and politicians can win elections by promising to curtail actual innocence appeals for death row inmates. But I'm disappointed that it's happening on Metafilter.
posted by decathecting at 6:34 PM on October 7, 2012 [12 favorites]


I agree with you on principal, but even if he's actually innocent, this isn't exactly Hoder: he's a person who essentially fled justice in the US to exploit the lax legal system in another country and screwed up somehow and is now being held perhaps unjustly and definitely in circumstances that no human being should be in. I certainly hope that the penal system in Panama improves and that this story's popularity sheds light internationally on how fucked up it is over there. I feel a lot worse for the Panamanians who are locked up there though--Galeota isn't getting a lick of my sympathy today.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 6:52 PM on October 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


decathecting, in the end, none of us can save this man from himself. He has dug a vast hole and finds himself in darkness. We beg him to come up, save yourself, but he digs deeper. Even now, he begs us to help him shovel faster. What can we do but stand back and watch, in sorrow, as he burrows further into darkness?
posted by SPrintF at 6:53 PM on October 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


Australia is a patchwork of legislation on sex workers and shouldn't be considered homogeneous just an FYI.

Here's a woman talking about being a sex worker in Australia.
posted by Sebmojo at 6:57 PM on October 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


What can we do but stand back and watch, in sorrow, as he burrows further into darkness?

Express distaste at the abuse of his human rights. Defend him as we all deserve to be defended. Be as appalled by the mistreatment of the bad as we are by the mistreatment of the good, because that's the only way that we get to include ourselves in the latter category.

Avoiding indulging oneself in cod-poetic mock-spiritual gloating would also be a good idea.
posted by howfar at 7:09 PM on October 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


I suppose I should expect it, given that we live in a world where "dropping the soap"...

Unless I am mistaken, no one has made a pro-prison rape comment in this thread. If that's the case, then maybe it would be best not to introduce it here?
posted by zippy at 9:34 PM on October 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


decathecting, I think that dissonance is exactly why so many people have commented on their lack of empathy— because although intellectually and abstractly, it's clearly wrong and unjust that this guy seems to be rotting in prison; emotionally and concretely, it's hard to feel very bad about it. I think (hope) that I, and most people here, would give this man due process if it were in their power, even if they think he's a vile worm. (Admittedly, if the magical justice fairies could only see a certain number of people a day, he might not be the first in line. A moral failing on my part perhaps.)

If this had been a different FPP whose story was "Person does awful things, receives prompt and fair trial, is thrown in jail" I don't think there'd be as many commenters saying they don't feel bad about the outcome, even if they really don't feel bad about it, because it wouldn't have that tension.
posted by hattifattener at 10:40 PM on October 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


I have no idea if legalized prostitution could be done in a legal and safe manner that made it like any other profession
FWIW, this is the exactly sort of pseudo-typical American naivete that got Galeota into trouble in the first place. Granted, Galeota made it worse by following through with his intentions, but it doesn't make the above statement any less... stupid poorly articulated.
posted by Blue_Villain at 5:22 AM on October 8, 2012


Blue_Villian, if you could point to a single instance of prostitution being done in a legal and safe manner that made it like any other profession, or some new way to epistemologically prove a negative you might have a point about the OBVIOUSNESS of the debate surrounding the legalization of prostitution.

But no, just to head you off, Dutch prostitution is neither especially safe nor meaningfully just like any other profession.
posted by Blasdelb at 5:49 AM on October 8, 2012


Patriarchy chastises itself.
posted by what's her name at 7:29 AM on October 8, 2012


I guess it's pseudo-typical Canadian naivete, Blue_Villain. But what's the problem you have with it? I'm not advocating for or against the legalization of prostitution in general, just saying that in certain environments like Panama legalization isn't a good idea. That's very different from Galeota, who presumably just wanted a place he could make money doing the same things he'd done before, with minimum risk.
posted by Kevin Street at 1:10 PM on October 8, 2012


But it is apparent that legalizing prostitution in an environment characterized by extreme poverty, corruption and massive organized crime doesn't help anybody but the criminals, who continue to maintain the same organizations as before.

That's true of all industries. Look at American factories before the labor movement, or logging and mining in any third world country. Say legalized prostitution can't work in a country without secure legal protections is meaningless.
posted by spaltavian at 5:35 PM on October 8, 2012


just saying that in certain environments like Panama legalization isn't a good idea

You're basically saying those benighted third-worlders just don't have their stuff together to run their own country. Thank heavens you know enough to tell them what they should do.
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 11:31 PM on October 8, 2012


No, that's not it all. But have fun tearing apart what you want me to say.
posted by Kevin Street at 3:03 PM on October 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


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