Meet Selim “Sam” Zherka. New York City strip club proprietor. Westchester county newspaper owner. And the self-described “loudest voice” for the Tea Party in New York state.In the weeks since the revelation that the Internal Revenue Service inappropriately screened applications for non-profit status from conservative and Tea Party groups, numerous individuals have come forward to claim that they, too, were unfairly treated by the IRS for political reasons. Zherka is one of them.
Last week, Zherka filed a lawsuit in federal court in Manhattan against the IRS, the FBI, and three individuals (Tony Nikac, Pasquale Scarpa, and Genaro Morales) for “gross derogation of [Zherka’s] fully protectable rights under the First, Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution.”
At a press conference in New York City on Wednesday, Zherka, who owns the VIP Club and Cheetah’s Gentleman Club in Manhattan, and a free weekly newspaper called The Westchester Guardian, said the government has been carrying on a “witch hunt” against him for years.
“They’re investigating every dealing I’ve done, since the beginning of time,” Zherka said.
Zherka’s lawsuit, which seeks tens of millions of dollars in damages, states that the IRS and FBI began investigating him in 2010, not long after he began calling for the formation of a Tea Party in New York as an alternative to the Democratic and Republican parties.
According to the complaint, when Zherka refused to “succumb to threats and abuses to which he was being subjected and continued to speak out on the issues he was — an remains — passionate about,” IRS and FBI agents “entered into an illicit scheme to fabricate” evidence against Zherka. The agencies then began investigating the three named defendants — Nikac, Scarpa, and Morales — with the intent to “coerce” the them to testify falsely against Zherka. The suit accuses the three individuals of giving “false and perjurious” testimony about Zherka to a federal grand jury. It does not say what relationship the individuals have to Zherka.
Earlier this week, Zherka told The New York Post that he had participated in dozens of public rallies where he spoke out against political corruption and high taxes.
“I was the loudest voice in the state of New York for the Tea Party movement,” Zherka said.
Furthermore, Zherka told the Post, it took eight months for a group he formed, New Yorkers for Good Government, to be approved for tax-exempt status. (The group is not mentioned in his lawsuit.)
New York news outlets have noted that Zherka is no stranger to litigation or media attention. According to The Journal News, Zherka has sued political opponents and a dozen Westchester communities. In April, former Yonkers Mayor Phil Amicone publicly apologized to Zherka as part of a $100,000 settlement of a defamation suit brought by the strip club mogul.