Who would have thought an investigation into a disputed credit card charge would uncover a scheme like this?
Zyad Younan, a cardiologist at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, had no idea how he’d racked up a $135,303 credit card bill at a Manhattan strip club. He didn’t even remember being there.
Scores, a strip club in Chelsea, sued Younan to recover the six-figure bill he allegedly racked up during four visits during two wild and crazy weeks last November. The club claimed he spent most of the money on dancers, some in private rooms, and said they had video to prove it.
When word got out about the dispute, Younan claimed he’d been drugged. Nobody believed him. “What a boob,” the New York Post wrote.
As of this week, Younan as feeling vindicated.
An indictment unsealed on Wednesday revealed an elaborate scheme in which four strippers colluded with a strip club manager to seduce wealthy men, drug them and charge thousands to their credit cards. The indictment doesn’t name the four victims, but Younan’s attorney identified his client as one of them. All four victims worked in law, medicine or finance.
Women have long had to be wary of being drugged and taken advantage of while out on the town. But these scheming strippers allegedly targeted rich Manhattan men, doping their drinks to get into their wallets.
According to investigators, the deception began long before the victims got to the strip club. The voluptuous women went out on the town – the rich part of town – looking for marks.
Where does a lady looking for a rich guy go? Nassau County, one of the richest counties in America and home to the Gold Coast — a 16-mile stretch of mansions that was the setting for “The Great Gatsby’s” great parties and home to titans of industry from Gilded Age robber barons to today’s Wall Street tycoons.
At least one of the victims was first contacted in Nassau. The others fell into the trap in Manhattan’s high-priced bars and restaurants.
It seemed normal at first, appealing even. An attractive woman in a bar flirts with you, she wants your number, you give it to her. Within a week, she would make plans to meet up with the victim, inviting a couple of the other girls to join.
Out on the town, as their marks were presumably distracted by booze and copious amounts of cleavage, the women allegedly slipped drugs, including the tranquilizers ketamine and methylone, or “molly,” into their victim’s drinks. Prosecutors said the victims were so impaired that the women sometimes also gave them cocaine so they could walk, the New York Times reported.
The night ended where many a bachelor’s boozy Manhattan night has: at a strip club. Sometimes it was the RoadHouse Gentleman’s Club, a strip joint in the Flushing area of Queens. Other times it was Scores, a Chelsea joint panned by Yelp reviewers as a disappointing ripoff.
Once inside, the women allegedly took the men’s credit cards, racking up thousands in charges on booze, dances and food, forging the signatures or tricking the intoxicated men into thinking the bill was less than it was. All in all, the women allegedly bilked the men out of $200,000 between September and December of last year.
Investigators said Younan went on three dates with Pascucci before he discovered the charges on his corporate American Express card, according to the Times. Several of the men said they woke up with no recollection of what had happened the night before.
“He wakes up in a hotel room in Manhattan, and he’s thinking he must have had a good time,” an official at the Drug Enforcement Administration told the Times.
The clubs allegedly paid the women a portion of the men’s tabs in exchange for bringing the men in. The owners of the clubs were not charged in the indictment, but Carmine Vitolo, a manager at the RoadHouse, was.
The dancers – Samantha Barbash, 40, Roselyn Keo, 29, Karina Pascucci, 26, and Marsi Rosen, 28 — were arrested Monday. Vitola, 43, was arrested on Wednesday. All five were charged with conspiracy to commit grand larceny, a felony. All of them pleaded not guilty and were released on bail, according to the Times.
Attorneys for Pascucci and Keo told the NY Daily News their clients were innocent and denied they ever worked as strippers. Pascucci’s lawyer, Patrick Parrotta, said she’d worked as a bartender, while Keo’s lawyer, Samuel Gregory, said she was a “promoter.”
Gregory said the charges sounded skimpy to him.
“Guys get drunk and spend up all their money and then wake up the next day and realize they spent all their money foolishly, and all of a sudden, it’s a crime,” he said.
Alison I. Blaine, a lawyer for Scores, told the Times the club would press ahead with the suit. “It’s still incredulous to us that he was there three times and all three times he was drugged,” Blaine said.
The defendants plan to fight the charges. “She said she never gave anybody any drugs,” Stephen G. Murphy, Barbash’s attorney, said. “She never stole anybody’s money.” He told the Times his client is married, has a 20-year-old son and works at the RoadHouse club.
As for Younan, he feels vindicated, the Asbury Park Press reported:
The arrests exposed how “my client was preyed upon by this ring and not responsible for charges to his credit card,” Younan’s attorney, Michael Weinstein, said Wednesday.