In his regular job, state Trooper Robert E. Covington Jr. enforced state gambling laws at the Mohegan Sun Casino in Plains Twp.
In his spare time, Covington co-owned and operated the Sinners Swing strip club in Mayfield where he conspired with others to break the same laws and promote prostitution, according to a statewide grand jury presentment unveiled Thursday.
Troopers charged Covington, 48, of Olyphant; his business partner in the strip club, David P. Klem, 39, of Archbald, a convicted drug dealer; Michael P. Ball, 49, of Dalton, Covington’s friend; and Deanna E. Tallo, 32, of Throop, a stripper at the club.
State police suspended Covington, a 13-year force veteran whose trooper salary was $98,228, without pay. He was on unspecified restricted duty before that.
Covington’s strip club associates had criminal pasts.
Klem spent time in state prison after his March 2013 arrest for dealing drugs out of his Olyphant restaurant. Tallo pleaded guilty in December 2018 to a federal charge of trying to smuggle in suboxone and tobacco while she was an inmate in the Lackawanna County Prison. She still has not been sentenced. Suboxone is used to treat opioid addiction.
A few years ago, a woman accused Covington and another trooper of raping her. They denied it and the woman, Christine Cromer, was later convicted of making up the story and sent to jail in July 2019.
Covington and Klem went into business together in March 2018, creating a limited liability company called CK Associates, which was listed as doing business as Sinners Swing. Covington put up $40,000 to start it, but that November had himself removed as part of CK Associates in papers filed with the state. The following April, similar papers withdrew him from Sinners Swing.
That didn’t end his connection to the club, according to investigators.
Covington remained an authorized signer on the bank account and he kept the club’s financial books, which troopers later found, according to the presentment.
Undercover troopers routinely saw Covington at the club. They reported he opened the club for business on 35 days and observed him there on 140 days between March 2019 and March 2020. At least 11 times, he collected entry fees at the door and sometimes collected money for VIP dances for clients with strippers, according to the presentment. He was also present as customers solicited paid sex acts from strippers and the venue paid money to gamblers who won on illegal video gambling machines, the presentment says.
Klem, known as “Flava Dave,” told one undercover trooper his partner was named Rob, a state trooper who worked at Mohegan Sun and visited Sinners Swing on days he didn’t work at the casino.
The strippers earned no salary. Customers paid them through tips, sometimes more for private dances and even more for “extras” — sexual acts for money that happened in the clubs VIP rooms or its Champagne Room. Klem let strippers know they could earn more through extras. He regularly got a cut of their money, often $100. One stripper told the grand jury she earned $2,000 to $4,000 a week through extras.
Troopers seized four illegal video gambling machines in March, five days before raiding Covington’s and Klem’s homes. By then, undercover troopers had personally viewed 10 payouts, ranging from $15 to $160. Covington, Klem and Ball did the paying, according to the presentment.
In text messages, Klem regularly let Covington know how well the club did the night before.
“We had a … ton of girls last night,” Covington wrote on Nov. 10, 2019.
After a short exchange of texts, Klem wrote, “If my numbers are correct, we did 2674 last night.” A month later, Covington texted Klem to say, “Looks like a decent night last night … heading into the weekend strong.”
“985 last night,” Klem replied.
A state police forensic investigator also found the club didn’t deposit tens of thousands of dollars into its bank account or account for revenues on club financial statements, according to the presentment.
Police charged Covington, Klem, Ball and Tallo with running a corrupt organization, conspiracy and promoting prostitution. They charged Covington, Klem and Ball with operating illegal gambling devices. They also charged Covington and Klem with dealing in proceeds from unlawful activities and criminal use of a cell phone. And they charged Covington with lying to a trooper about his role in the club and failing to account for his ownership on a required state financial disclosure form.
After their arraignment by Magisterial District Judge Laura Turlip, Covington and Klem were freed on $100,000 unsecured bail. Turlip freed Ball and Tallo on $50,000 unsecured bail.
She set their preliminary hearings for noon on Feb. 23.