This is the story of Roselyn Keo who led the hustlers scheme where strippers drugged men and charged thousands on their credit cards.
In Dec 2015, New York magazine’s contributing editor Jessica Pressler wrote an award-winning story “The Hustlers at Scores.” This was after interviewing Roselyn Keo ‘Rosie,’ one of the two ringleaders of the New York strip club scam.
Who is Roselyn Keo aka ‘Rosie’
Roselyn Keo was born in 1984 in Rockland County, New York, United States.
In the 2015 interview with journalist Jessica Pressler, Rosie, then 31, claimed that her parents’ had left her and her brother with elderly grandparents and taken off to Atlantic City when she was young. Her parents, Cambodian refugees, had come to America hoping for a better life but things didn’t work out as they’d expected. They “got caught up with the, you know, material crap, and the nice cars, and the nightlife…and just somewhere, they went wrong,” Rosie said.
Rosie dropped out of school in her teens and, at 17, took a job at the New City Diner, an eatery in Nanuet. While working there one night, a manager at Lace [a nearby gentlemen’s club] gave her a $20 tip on a $20 check and suggested she come by if she was interested in making more money.
She went to Lace the next day, lied about her age, and landed a job. She made $500 to $1,000 a night. But the real money, she knew, was in Manhattan. Soon, she started driving her used Honda into the city, to Flash Dancers in Times Square and Larry Flynt’s Hustler Club. Which is where she met Samantha Foxx.
Who is Samantha Foxx?
Samantha, born Samantha Barbash, started dancing at 19. By the time Rosie met her, Samantha was in her 30s. At Hustler, as in other strip clubs elsewhere, the dancers worked in groups…because men tend to lose their grip on their wits and wallets around three or four female strippers. According to Rosie’s recollection, everyone wanted to work with Samantha because “she had a lot of clients and she knew how to work well.”
Samantha took Rosie under her wing and introduced her to some of her regular customers, mostly Wall Street guys.
Normal “business” before the scheme
At this point in 2007, Strip clubs were popular among many Wall Street men looking for a place to blow off steam after pushing around billions of millions all day long. Strip clubs were one of the few places outside Wall Street where large sums of money could be treated just as cavalierly. Rosie recalled one Hustler client who was working at Guggenheim Partners then, he would blow 300 grand in one week. “Everyone made $10,000 every time he came in,” she said in the interview.
A lot of girls in the strip clubs claimed to be students, but Rosie really was taking classes at Berkeley College in New Jersey. Introduction to Psychology helped her to understand the dynamics of the club. She figured out that the reason why Wall Street guys partied so hard was because they were not happy with their jobs. They made money, but they were not happy, so they went out and splurged on strip clubs, drinking and drugs. Then the money depleted and they had to make it again. Rosie viewed the dancers almost the same way. She makes money, but then she’s depressed, so she ends up shopping or going on vacation, and the money depletes, so she keeps going back.
Rosie left her stripper job for a little while to get her first baby. Things had drastically changed when she came back. The market collapse in 2008 had left half of Wall Street unemployed. New dancers ruled the floor, many of them Russian girls and Colombian girls. They were cheap and they were good-looking. Rosie couldn’t compete with that.
Then she saw a familiar face. It was Samantha Foxx. But she wasn’t dancing anymore. Samantha was now running a crew of girls who would pick men up and bring them into the clubs, or “marketing” as she liked to call it. Popularly known as “fishing”, this practice wasn’t something the industry considered to be reliable. However, Samantha seemed to be doing extraordinarily well, according to Rosie’s observation. It didn’t take Rosie long to figure out what was going on.
The Hustler’s scam takes off
Since the 2008 recession, the clubs desperately needed customers and Samantha knew she could bring them in. At night, she would go down the list of client phone numbers she’d accrued over the years like a telemarketer does. Maybe that is why she called it “marketing”. She’d send them a sexy text with an accompanying captivating photograph, and waited to see if they were up for a night out. Samantha admitted that she didn’t always send her own picture. She sometimes sent a picture of one of the girls in her crew, like Karina Pascucci, the sister of one of her dancer friends. She was dark-haired and sloe-eyed. Enough that people often pointed out that she looked like a younger Samantha. Marsi Rosen was another beauty in Samantha’s stable whose photos would bait men into the “throw-out-your-wits-and-wine-and-dine-with-strippers” club.
If the client got interested, Samantha would send Marsi or Karina to meet him and wine and dine him. Then, the other girls would show up, hang around and make sure he was helplessly drunk on alcohol and feminine attention. In that state, the victim would be ready for shipping to a credit card milking station, a club.
Commissions on running clients’ credit cards hard
Samantha had negotiated, with several clubs, lucrative commissions on clients’ spending. So, the ‘fishing girls’ would bring the poor fellow to a selected club, then they would proceed to run up his credit card as far as they could push it. Their efforts paid off many times.
Sometimes, however, the whole performance would fail to get the man to the club. He’d be too tired to go out or something. They’d even try to offer him drugs for extra energy, and the plan would still not work. In such situations, Samantha had devised another ‘fishing’ tool, a special drink spiked with MDMA and ketamine. Just a sprinkle of it into a client’s drink and he’d be out. Rosie knew she wanted in after she observed this happening in the Champagne Room severally. She knew they were crossing a lot of lines, but having worked at strip clubs, drugging people was normal, she said. They had some justifications for the means to ends, including that they targeted wealthy people, “What’s an extra $20,000 to them?”…and, “they had history; they’d been to Hustler, they’d been to Rick’s, they’d been to Scores strip club; they all walked in ready to party. And yeah, we slipped an extra one that they didn’t know about. But all of it goes hand in hand — sex, drugs, and rock and roll.”
The MDMA lifted the guy’s moods. They were happy. But the ketamine screwed their memory, and they often ended up blacking out. Days or weeks later, some guy would call to complain about his inflated bill. Samantha would be ready to respond to them, reminding him of what a good time he had. Rosie would be listening in sometimes. Samantha was convincing, and also ruthless. At times, men would not buying the “you had a great time” lie, but upon weighing the cost of filing a formal complaint, and telling family what actually happened, they’d just let it go, and Smantha would be thousands of dollars richer.
On her part, Rosie was a great business manager. Her exceptional organization skills helped to streamline the operation. She drew up a schedule and kept notes on each client, with their personal details and how much had been charged to each of their cards. She also contributed thoughtful ideas to the illegal enterprise. For example, Rosie disclosed that she urged the girls she brought in to target upscale places that rich guys with everything to lose frequented. This was in contrast with Samantha’s initial plan of fishing men at bars like TGI Friday’s in the Financial District.
Rosie’s plan was to hang around at the higher end joints like “any girl who could be getting off work, relaxing after a long day by having a glass of wine.” This was Rosie’s plan: Spot worthy targets and verify their candidature by checking out the shoes, watch, wedding ring, etc. Then, send a group of guys shots from across the room and wait to see which one would come to you. Tell him you work at a reputable organization, like Guggenheim Partners. A few drinks in, make you proposition: “I know! Let’s go to a strip club! Yeah!” And the credit card draining play would be on!
At some point, some guys would want sex. Samantha and Rosie weren’t in for prostitution. To ensure that their clientele didn’t go, and thus keep the operation going, Samantha and Rosie resolved to outsource the prostitution service to prostitutes they found from Backpage and Craigslist. If the girls they found there were a little scruffy, she’d buy them new clothes and makeup. She trained them in etiquette and laid down the law: no drinking, no drugs. She taught them fake drinking and fake sniffing. Then, while they took care of their business, she took care of hers. “I was on the phone with American Express half the time verifying his last four digits of Social, his mother’s maiden name, his last purchases, and their name, and their location, and how much was being charged,” she said. Getting this kind of information from a guy high off his face with a prostitute draped over his legs wasn’t very difficult. “I did it right in front of them,” she said. “I would ask them really quickly, ‘What’s your mother’s maiden name? What’s your Social Security number?’ ”
At the end of the night, Rosie calculated the breakdown. She and Samantha got the largest cut, with the minor players getting increasingly minor sums. It’s unclear how much the clubs profited, but according to Rosie, the operation earned the clubs a lot of money. She recalls some nights when she brought in the club $100,000. And the hosts and managers appreciated her work. Business boomed. That first Christmas, Rosie and Samantha bought their favorite prostitute her first pair of Louboutins. Rosie wouldn’t have blinked at spending a thousand dollars on shoes. They rotated luxury vehicles. They were untouchable.
Bring the strippers to the guy and things get out of control
Samantha’s new innovation and success hadn’t gone unnoticed. Thus, copycats flooded the market. But there was a trend that Rosie had observed. Guys wanted to be around strippers but they didn’t always want to go to the clubs. A change of gears was necessary. The gang decided to take strippers to the guys. And they enjoyed the resultant monopoly for a while.
Things began to get out of control. Many incidents happened because of the complicated logistics of running a gang of hookers, strippers, and thieves. Intoxication, violence, and all manner of distasteful things in that sort of world were frequent. Tensions between Samantha and Rosie flared in the course of running their troubled business. They burned their base of regular clients and were now dealing with strangers, whose behaviors were unpredictable. There’s one account of a hedge-fund manager who had gotten so wasted that he bumped his head in his pool and suffered a concussion.
Understandably, stress levels among all gang members skyrocketed. They had to endure so much, and it was exhausting. The girls were maxing out their client’s credit cards at the slightest opportunity. But the money was just never enough.
NYPD receives countless complaints
Over the years, the New York City Police Department received countless calls from men complaining about credit card theft related to drugging at NYC strip clubs. At first their unofficial position was that the callers were full of shit. But when a particular caller said he had evidence, they were skeptical. Agents from the DEA went to the victim’s house, where he played a recorded conversation between himself and a lady. In the recording, the guy was begging to know what had happened to him, and the woman on the other end of the line gave in and told him he had been fleeced by a gang of ex-strippers who had spiked his drink with narcotics.
The agents soon thereafter picked the perpetrator, who reporters believe was one of Samantha’s girls. She had drugged the victim during an operation in the Gansevoort Hotel.
The DEA did not immediately succeed in cracking down Samantha’s gang mainly because victims were reluctant to press charges. “Men don’t want to admit to being victimized by women,” one cop had said. Meanwhile, reports of men claiming to have been drugged and swindled by strippers increasingly flooded the NYC tabloids. Such was a story on the Post in April 2014, and it was of Zyad Kivarkis Younan, a 43-year-old New Jersey cardiologist. His complaint was that Scores strip club had alleged that he failed to clear a $135,000 bill incurred after four visits to the club. It was unbelievable!
According to Younan’s testimony to the cops, he’d met Karina Pascucci at a restaurant on Park Avenue. Karina had told him that she was a nursing student. She introduced Samantha and Marsi to him as her relatives. Younan dated Karina for a while, but their dates ended fuzzily. He knew something had gone wrong after American Express called and alerted him about a $135,000-bill made at Scores strip club.
Other victims of the Hustler’s scam
During the investigations, police reached out to other victims. Many of them had suffered dire consequences in silence. Fred is one of them, and he had an autistic son. The strippers had maxed out his corporate credit card. Consequently, his company had started an internal investigation which saw him fired. He was lucky to land another job, but was soon fired. His name was enlisted with an agency that tracks white-collar crime. By the time of the investigation, Fred had found another job, but he lived in constant fear that his employer would find out and probably fire him.
Police arrest the Hustlers scam gang
On June 9, 2014, the police arrested Samantha at an ATM in her neighborhood. Karina was picked up next, then Marsi. Rosie was last. Afterward, they were trucked out to Rikers, where they were reunited in a cell the following day.
Around the same time, in the spring of 2014, The New York Post ran a story about a cardiologist who “refused” to pay the $135,000 bill charged to his credit card at Scores, another New York City club in circulation for Keo and Barbash. Zyad Kivarkis Younan claimed “that he couldn’t possibly have rung up that high a bill without having been drugged,” the Post wrote, after Scores had sued the doctor to recoup the funds.
Eight months of investigations by the NYCPD, the DEA and the Special Narcotics Prosecutor’s Office led to the indictment of the Hustlers scam women – Barbash, Keo, Rosen, Pascucci and Carmine Vitolo, a manager at RoadHouse. The scheme “involved not only the theft of $200,000, but compromised the health, safety and security of victims by covertly giving them harmful substances,” Special Narcotics Prosecutor Bridget G. Brennan said in a press release at the time. All the crimes took place between Sept. 3, 2013 and Dec. 19, 2013.
Barbash and Keo were both charged with two counts of conspiracy, four counts of grand larceny, two counts of assault and three counts of forgery. Pascucci was charged with two counts of conspiracy, four counts of grand larceny and one count of forgery, while Rosen was charged with two counts of conspiracy, three counts of grand larceny, one count of assault and two of forgery.
All four women and Vitolo pled guilty to their crimes. Keo took a plea deal that kept her out of jail entirely. She pleaded guilty to grand larceny and attempted assault in March 2016, when she was 33. In exchange, she was given five years probation.
As of September 12, 2019 Keo was writing a book. She told New York Magazine that the book would be called The Sophisticated Hustler: When The Alpha Female Takes On Wall Street Paperback.
Marsi Rosen has been living a private life out of the public eye since she was released from weekend jail stints, according to Oprah Magazine.
Hustlers is a 2019 American crime comedy-drama film written and directed by Lorene Scafaria, based on New York magazine‘s 2015 article “The Hustlers at Scores” by Jessica Pressler. The film stars Constance Wu, Jennifer Lopez, Julia Stiles, Keke Palmer, Lili Reinhart, Lizzo, and Cardi B.
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