Federal agents seized 22 guns, bulletproof vests and nearly $150,000 in cash from the home of the Arlington strip club owner arrested this week in an alleged murder-for-hire plot targeting Mayor Robert Cluck and an attorney who represents the city, according to court documents.
Ryan Walker Grant, 34, is accused of working through an intermediary to arrange the deaths of Cluck and attorney Tom Brandt, who he felt were blocking his efforts to reopen Flashdancer Cabaret, according to a federal arrest warrant affidavit.
FBI agents arrested Grant on Monday at his home in Kennedale. He is still in federal custody at the Parker County Jail.
Grant was scheduled to appear at a detention hearing Friday morning in front of U.S. Magistrate Jeffrey Cureton in Fort Worth. However, attorney Warren St. John, whose office said he was hired by Grant’s family Thursday morning, has asked the court to delay the hearing one week so he can confer with his client. On Friday, the hearing was postponed until 9 a.m. April 20.
The items seized at Grant’s home included $146,025 in cash, a shoulder holster and a cache of weapons including six .45-caliber handguns, three .44-caliber handguns, four .357 Magnums and a Ruger .454 Casull, along with ammunition. The three-page search warrant inventory affidavit also listed various documents, computers, a cellphone and a plastic bag with the number 50,000 on it.
Federal officials declined to comment on the case Thursday, and no one answered the door at Grant’s home.
Cluck, who has police protection, said Thursday that he has never spoken with Grant and has never received a death threat during his nine years as mayor.
To protect his family, he declined to comment on the situation.
But at a news conference Wednesday, Cluck said it is clear that the authorities are dealing with an angry person.
“Obviously, he’s very, very angry, and when I heard the facts from the FBI, obviously we were very concerned about it,” Cluck said. “We’re still concerned, but he is in federal custody and will remain that way for the foreseeable future.”
Protracted legal battle
The city’s legal battle with Flashdancer, 520 N. Watson Road, stretches back years.
In January, Grant was forced to close the club — one of Arlington’s last three sexually oriented businesses — under a settlement with the city and the state attorney general’s office.
The state had a pending lawsuit against Flashdancer, which officials had deemed a nuisance property rife with drugs, prostitution, aggravated assaults and other crimes.
Grant previously told the Star-Telegram that he was determined to reopen his club in 2013 and that he had filed for the annual renewal of his sexually oriented business license. But that application was not processed because Police Chief Theron Bowman moved to revoke the club’s license days before it expired in February, citing “rampant” sexual contact discovered there by vice officers.
During a March 30 administrative hearing on the license revocation, Brandt used the officers’ testimony, video clips of sex or prohibited touching at the club, and other evidence to show violations of the city’s sexually oriented business ordinance.
The revocation angered Grant, who said the city never served him a search warrant to review the club’s surveillance video footage, which had been seized as part of a drug investigation, for other violations that would affect his license.
The city’s evidence included video footage of him having sex with a former girlfriend after hours in his private office. Grant disputed that the act was a violation. He told the Star-Telegram last week that he would fight the revocation in court.
“I intend on being the one [strip] club left. I’ve done everything I can to appease this city. They are lying their asses off,” Grant said. “They are changing the rules. I’m not going to stop until I win.”
Grant has consistently defended his club, saying that the city was obsessed with shutting him down and that police had harassed his customers and employees during excessive inspections that never yielded major criminal charges.
“That club is something special to me. It was my first club. I started there at age 21,” Grant said this year in a Star-Telegram interview about his plans to reopen. “It’s not bad people. There is no nuisance there.”
Alleged plot described
On April 3, four days after the administrative hearing, an unidentified person met with Grant at his home to discuss the contract killings, according to the federal arrest warrant affidavit filed Monday. The person was given the targets’ photos and contact information.
Grant was angry that the officials were stopping him from reopening his nightclub, the document states.
“They just jacked me for a year of business and they’re trying to jack me indefinitely, when we had a deal, and they just reneged on it,” Grant said, according to the affidavit. Grant said he would lose $800,000 a year if the nightclub remained closed, and he promised to pay $10,000 per murder.
Grant also told the intermediary that he wanted men from Mexico to commit the slayings because they could return to their country afterward. In phone conversations April 5 and 6, Grant told the intermediary to wait until they could talk again, the affidavit said.
The two met Monday, and Grant confirmed that he wanted one of the officials killed, the affidavit said. The intermediary told Grant that people were waiting for his go-ahead.
Cluck and Brandt were briefed on the investigation Monday. While the mayor says he had never received a death threat, he isn’t the first high-ranking city official who has been seriously threatened.
Last year, Bowman was under visible police protection, with officers flanking him at places such as City Hall and stationed outside his Arlington home.
Bowman’s neighbors noticed the heightened security last summer, reporting that unmarked police cars were parked in his driveway, that floodlights were installed on his property and that the chief was no longer seen jogging in the neighborhood.
At that time, Arlington police asked local news media, including the Star-Telegram, not to publicize the chief’s security detail because of safety concerns.
The Police Department is not providing details about the threat against the chief, saying another agency is handling the case. The department also declined Thursday to confirm any connection between the threat against Bowman and the ones against Cluck and Brandt.
In 1992, Arlington began adopting stricter ordinances regulating businesses like Flashdancer. The city had 14 clubs at the time. Now only two — The Fare and Peep-N-Tom’s — remain open.
Several clubs, including Flashdancer and the now-shuttered Baby Dolls, Chicas Locas and Fantasy Ranch, sued the city over the ordinance but withdrew their cases or lost.
Cluck has publicly commented about the city’s efforts to clean up strip clubs through police enforcement and license revocations.
“There are a lot of other things that can go on in a sexually oriented business. There can be sexual acts, drug activity. Frequently there is. It is just not good for the city,” Cluck said Thursday. “We’re not trying to run anybody out. We expect the ones that are here to obey the laws.”
But Grant has said that Arlington police started an “all-out assault on my club” in 2010, not long after he was arrested on suspicion of driving while intoxicated. Grant denied being intoxicated and said he called 911 for help after a vehicle sideswiped him on the highway late one night. Grant said he instead was pepper-sprayed and assaulted by police officers. He received a probated sentence on the charge.
Grant filed complaints against the officers, but no action was taken. He also filed a federal lawsuit against the city this year. In the suit, which has been withdrawn, Grant alleged that Arlington police and officials have harassed him, his employees and his customers.
“They followed me when I leave the house. They said I’m involved in the mafia, organized crime,” Grant said this year. “I don’t socialize with gangsters. What it boils down to is I own a titty bar. I don’t have any rights.”