Several women accused last summer of drugging and swindling wealthy men out of hundreds of thousands of dollars will soon face sentencing — three have already pleaded guilty, while a fourth, Roselyn Keo, will go to court in February. Keo, Samantha Barbash, Karina Pasucci, and Marsi Rosen were arrested along with strip club manager Carmine Vitolo for stealing around $200,000 from a hedge fund manager, a financial manager, a doctor, and a real estate agent. But according to an in-depth story in this month's issue of New York Magazine, which draws heavily on interviews with Keo, these victims were just a fraction of those conned by the scheming quartet.
What started as a crafty way to flip the power balance in the strip club scene, where dancers felt they were often shorted on the money their performances were bringing in, developed into a carefully-orchestrated grift. On a typical night, Barbash, the alleged ringleader, would send a photo of one of the women to a man whose name she'd pulled from a list of strip club clients. The rest went something like this:
If the client Samantha reached out to expressed interest, she’d have Marsi or Karina meet him out. They’d wine and dine him, then the others would show up, and then, when he was drunk on alcohol and feminine attention, they’d steer him toward one of the clubs from which they had negotiated a lucrative percentage of his spending. Then they would proceed to run up his credit card as far as they could push it.
Of course, it didn’t always work. Sometimes they’d go through the whole performance and the guy would be too tired to go out; they would offer him drugs for extra energy, but he would be too lame to take them. In the face of such situations, Samantha had come up with the innovation that was making her rich: a special drink spiked with MDMA and ketamine.
The women were accused of stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars — but in her interviews with reporter Jessica Pressler, Keo alludes to making millions.
“It sounds so bad to say that we were, like, drugging people,” Keo said. “But it was, like, normal...What’s an extra $20,000 to them?”
Over time, the enterprise expanded to the point where Keo and Barbash were managing an extended network of hookers, strippers, and thieves. They outsourced sex work to women advertising on Craigslist and Backpage; coaxed men into giving them their social security numbers; and, in one particularly dark twist, completely emptied the bank account of a man with an autistic son whose wife had left him.
"[W]e got greedy,” Rosie said. “Because of the amount of stress we had to endure. We’re just like, You know what, these people are fucking pissing me off. Just for that, I’m going to max out his credit card, like a penalty. You’re going to be left with a zero balance. Zero credit line. Just for being annoying. We needed to make it worth it.”
Their victims would typically refrain from calling police out of fear their spouses or employers would find out.
Barbash and Keo were quick to blame each other when the scam unraveled last summer, but ultimately Keo was the one who came clean to authorities, according to New York, which has the full juicy story here. It's worth noting that when the magazine tried to fact-check the piece, Keo denied everything she'd told Pressler. She'll go to court in February, and doesn't seem too worried about any potential sentence that she or her former colleagues might receive.
“I was watching Orange Is the New Black," she said. "[Samantha]’ll be like Red. She’ll be like V.”