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New York strippers stole thousands of dollars from clients: 20/20 on ID investigates the real life Hustlers

A scene from 2019 movie Hustlers, which was based on the crime
Candace Wu and Jennifer Lopez played characters representing Keo and Brabash in a movie based on their scheme. Pic credit: STX Films

20/20 on ID covers the true-life story of a group of New York strippers who began drugging their clients before stealing thousands of dollars from them.

Samantha Barbash, Roselyn Keo, Karina Pascucci, Marsi Rosen all took part in the scheme, which led to them pocketing at least $200,000 by illegal means over the course of a few years. Strip club manager Carmine Vitolo also aided them.

Their story was subsequently made into the 2019 Hollywood movie Hustlers, which starred Jennifer Lopez.

The women were working as dancers in two New York clubs that mostly catered for an affluent Wall Street type clientele. The women were not paid a wage by the clubs but instead got a percentage of the amount the clients spent inside the club. They also got tips.

The strippers turned to theft due to the 2008 financial crash

And it could be incredibly lucrative; Keo has spoken about how she regularly earned up to $10,000 a night when she first started stripping. However, when the 2008 financial crisis hit, many of their clients had reduced wages, which in turn, led to reduced pay for the strippers.

The women decided to begin robbing men. In what’s known as “fishing,” the four women would patrol New York’s bars and restaurants looking for potential victims. They would entice men with the promise of date before surreptitiously drugging them with a mixture of Ketamine, Methylone, and Cocaine.

While drugged, the strippers would then transport their victims to either the Scores New York Club in Manhattan or Roadhouse NYC Club in Queens, where they were taken into a private room for adult entertainment.

In these rooms, the women would steal their credit cards and identities. They would then charge thousands of dollars to the cards. They would either forge signatures or trick the victim into signing a credit card slip.

Brabash and Keo generally handled the financial aspect of the scheme but were aided by Vitolo. They would determine the credit limit on various cards and discuss what amounts they could get away with charging.

Thousands of dollars were charged to victims’ credit cards

They usually charged between $5,000 and $50,000 on a single card, but they sometimes used multiple cards from the same victim. One individual had $100,000 charged to his cards. The club would then pay the women a proportionate amount from the total charged.

The women were aided by the men’s reluctance to admit they had been hustled. Many of the men refused to go to the cops when they discovered they’d been robbed. Even when the scheme came to light, many refused to talk to detectives when approached.

The scheme did finally fall apart when one victim did go to the police. This individual was already struggling financially; they had lost their home in a hurricane and was also going through a divorce. When the women refused to give him back his $17,000, he told the NYPD.

Barbash, Keo, Rosen, Pascucci, and Carmine Vitolo, a manager at RoadHouse, were all arrested in 2014 and admitted their guilt in stealing $200,000 and endangering the health of their victims by drugging them.

The story was told in the 2019 Hollywood movie Hustlers, which was directed by Lorene Scafaria. Jennifer Lopez was in a starring rolling and played the character of Ramona Vega, who was based on Brabash.

Brabash later tried to sue the movie production company as she was unhappy at the portrayal of her character in the film.

20/20 on ID airs at 9/8c on Investigation Discovery.

Jerry was born and raised in Dublin, Ireland, but is now based in the UK. He specializes in true crime and entertainment news stories. When... read more
Jerry Brown


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