The stripper with a heart of gold stereotype has been around forever. It makes people feel better about sex workers; it eases their prejudices. However, the story of the stripper hustlers does not lend itself to that particular stereotype. In fact, The women in this story delight in the fact that they stole money from men, leaving some with next to no money.
Some have compared them to Robin Hood, but they didn't give to the poor; they gave to Christian Louboutin.
Samantha Barbash and Rosie Keo both contend they were the brains behind the scheme. They stole hundreds of thousands of dollars from men who worked on Wall Street. The ladies confessed and pleaded guilty to conspiracy, assault, and grand larceny charges. Currently, both ladies are out of jail and on probation. They are slinging insults at one another in the hopes of proving themselves the mastermind behind the operation.
On The Pole
Keo claims she found herself in need of money. She hit a rough period in life and was running low on funds. So she turned to a skill that she had previously used when money got tight; stripping.
She had danced at some other strip clubs in the Burroughs of NYC. However, like everyone else, she knew the real money was made in Manhattan joints. She looked at several different clubs to strip in. She had her eye on the gold standard joint, Larry Flynt's Hustler Club in Midtown Manhattan. As luck would have it, they were looking for dancers.
It was there that she met Barbash, who went by the name Samantha Foxx. Barbash was considered the top lady at the bar, the one that the clients most respected and the strippers looked up to. The Head Stripper in Charge, as she titled herself.
She cultivated young strippers, taught them everything she knew. It was Barbash's way of staying on top. Since she was older than most, the men wanted to see the younger girls, but they didn't have the experience she did. They also hadn't cultivated the client list that she had.
When Keo asked her for help, she agreed. Barbash introduced her new protege to some of her clients, mostly finance guys. According to Keo, the men had no problem throwing money around in the club:
"We had a guy who was — is — at Guggenheim Partners. He spent 300 grand in one week. He came in three times, 100 grand every time he walked in the room. Everyone made $10,000 every time he came in."
Keo made enough money to pay her rent and doctor bills. She had concealed the fact that she was pregnant when she was hired in at the club. She decided to quit before she began showing, and others started asking questions.
One Hustler Returns
Strip clubs' popularity began to decline in 2007. There were other outlets for men to get the attention they wanted, including dating sites that catered to nearly every finish. Still, there was money for the women to make in the clubs. And many of the strip joints tried to make it desirable to work for them, as owners realized they would go out of business without having the live entertainment. Many women seized on the opportunity to show that the clubs needed them more than they needed the clubs. At least in most cases.
Still, the money that strippers made was decent, and the hours were flexible. That was why after Keo gave birth and after a particularly nasty fight with her on/off fiance, she returned to Hustlers. But the game had changed.
The new girls were pushing the boundaries. In the back rooms, they were performing more than private lap dances. According to Keo, she walked in on several girls performing oral sex on some of the men. More than that, she learned that they were charging $300 for the act.
Barbash was still working at the club too. But she was no longer a stripper. Instead, she was pimping the new girls out and taking a portion of the money that they made. She told Keo that it was the only way that the girls were making a living.
Reasons For The Con
Gone were the big money days before the economic collapse of 2009. The new normal saw most of the men avoiding the Champagne Room. Money was tight everywhere, and the clubs were having trouble bringing in the customers until Barbash started scheming ways to help management out.
Barbash's crew would get men into the club and spend some money on drinks and dancers. Profits were still down, but the men had their eyes on the women and were willing to put out money in ways they hadn't before.
It wasn't selfless on Barbash's part. At the end of the night, she got a cut of the sales. Her services were essential to the club's survival; in a way, she was the marketing team they didn't have. And the club gave her a cover for the more nefarious activities that she had going on with the strippers.
Keo would soon discover a secret the club and Barbash were trying to keep quiet: They were drugging the men. Once a man was incapacitated, they would charge up his card as much as they could. To keep the men quiet, the new strippers would have sex with the men. Most of the men wanted to keep things quiet for fear of losing their marriage or their jobs.
Instead of being disgusted by the scheme, Keo wanted in. She justified the theft and rape by saying the guys were just as bad as the women:
"They had history. They'd been to Hustler, they'd been to Rick's, they'd been to Scores. 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. You know?"
The fact that the men liked looking at naked women made it ok to scam them.
The ladies never felt bad about what they did.
Taking It Off And Up
More workers were needed to keep the scam going. Keo and Barbash would get the guys into the strip club, but some men wanted sex, which is where a few ladies drew the line. Some of the new women who performed the sex acts on the men were less than happy to be doing it.
To that end, they recruited some females that were willing to have sex for money. Those girls were found on Craigslist and Backpage, at the time the most prominent sources for sex workers. Barbash and Keo would then give each of the women a makeover. They wanted to make sure that their employees looked professional, classy, and sexy.
While the guys were busy having sex with the women, Keo says she was confirming the credit card information in front of the guys. She continuously confirmed various aspects of the man's identity while working to make sure she could bilk as much money as possible from him. Once that was done, the money would be given to the club.
Both Barbash and Keo believe they are innocent of the credit card fraud charges that were eventually brought against them. They claim that because the money went to the club and they were acting in an official capacity for the company, they were well within their legal rights to do this. Prosecutors did not bring charges against anyone from Hustlers, Scores, or any other strip club regarding this case.
But Keo and Barbash were not content to keep sharing their money with the clubs. It was no longer profitable enough to keep them happy.
Taking the Scam on the Road
By the Fall of 2013, the scheme was so successful that other girls duplicated it in strip clubs around the city. Which was cutting into the profits that Keo, Barbash, and the management of Hustler were used to making. Management decided to let it ride and try to increase their attendance.
This forced Keo and Barbash to take their scheme on the road. They began pimping out girls full-time. They would book hotel rooms around the fancier parts of the city and send their workers out to bring in the men.
Part of the new plan was to eliminate the need for a club. They began finding guys and taking them back to the hotel room for private services. Keo and Barbash were thrilled with the new business model; bringing the strippers to the men allowed them to keep more of the stolen money.
They also amped up the machinations. Even if a man seemed ready to go, they still made sure to have plenty of drinks with him and then drug him to the point of being unconscious. Once the man was out of commission, they would run up the credit card charges.
Trouble was looming, however.
Too Much Isn't Enough.
One regular client quit talking to them after Barbash ran his credit card up to the $50,000 limit. They had been maxing out many of their client's credit cards, which made the men very angry. With their usual base furious with them, they had to find new guys to replace the ones that they lost, which took more time and resources for less money.
One night they met a man at a Japanese restaurant in Midtown. This man would be the one who brought the entire enterprise down. It started friendly enough. The woman he would have sex with would talk to him; the conversation was intensely personal. He told them about how his wife left him. They spoke about his daughter, who was autistic.
Despite the personal connection with the men, they still wiped the poor guy clean. They stole more than $17,000 from his bank account. He begged them to return the money, telling them that they had taken his mortgage payment. The women didn't care. Keo and Barbash already spent the money.
But a thread of the scheme had been pulled. It was in danger of coming undone.
The Scam Unravels
As Barbash and Keo's team became more reckless and spent more money, the scheme was brought to the attention of the NYPD. The man whose mortgage payment they stole filed a police report. Some of the officers were less than helpful, but a detective took note of what was said and started looking into the case. He asked for help.
To aid the NYPD's investigation, the Drug Enforcement Agency set up a sting. Investigators found just enough proof to keep the investigation going. What was being seen on the tape was shocking to those who viewed it.
Keo kept telling Barbash that something didn't seem right to her. But Barbash chalked the bad feeling up to paranoia. There was no way the operation was going to go bust on them. Even if their clients were angry, there was no way that any of them would turn to the police for help.
Still, Keo worried. What if they had gone too far and one of the guys risked everything to go to the police? They would be in a ton of trouble. And there were many men they had scammed.
But the cops were having an issue getting guys to admit the ladies scammed them. Investigators knew they were in for an uphill battle getting the men to testify against the women. Detectives believed that macho pride would prevent many of them from admitting the ladies victimized them.
It seemed to be a dead end. There was every chance that Keo and Barbash were going to get away with everything.
Finger Pointing And Charges
The New York Post helped the investigation. They ran a story about Dr. Zyad Younan not paying $140,000 to Scores, one of the strip clubs Barbash and Keo worked with. He became a laughing stock around the city.
Except in the police department.
Right away, the cops recognized the setup and reached out to the doctor. They set up interrogated him and found the common theme in the scam. The detectives were able to piece together enough evidence to jumpstart the case using his testimony.
Barbash was arrested at an ATM. The cops surrounded her. Keo and the other girls were quickly arrested and charged with various crimes associated with the scam. Many of the ladies were given plea deals as long as they were willing to turn on the Keo and Barbash. None of them needed much prodding to accept.
Barbash and Keo pointed to one another when asked by the police who was the mastermind behind the scam. After months of arguing amongst themselves about who the real leader of the scam was, both women were ready to throw their comrades under the bus.
Eventually, Keo would take a plea deal, the first of the duo to do so.
The Scam Goes Hollywood
New York tabloids had a field day with the story. Each paper referred to them as strippers, much to their chagrin. Barbash took issue with the press declaring them strippers. Every chance she got, she would shout that they were not exotic dancers.
Once prosecutors brought the charges, Barbash quit claiming that she was the brains of the operation. For a while. Keo also started denying being the mastermind. However, others remembered things a bit differently.
At one point, both Keo and Barbash both claimed to have been the brains behind the operation. Barbash told Page Six that she was the one who arranged for the girls to go to the parties, that she encouraged the men to sleep with the ladies she brought and collected the money.
She also went on to claim that the girls she recruited made top dollar. But she insisted they have perfect bodies with beautiful faces to match. All of the girls were aware that they would be asked to perform sex acts, and they were all ok with it.
Keo countered that she was the one who brought the girls onboard. She conceded that Barbash found the parties but claimed she was the one who found the girls and encouraged the men to enjoy each other carnally. And if the men resisted, her counterpart would drug them and take their information.
That is part of the reason, Barbash is upset about the Jennifer Lopez fronted movie Hustlers. In her view, it paints her as one of Keo's minions. The movie has brought new interest to the case.
Barbash took legal action against the producers.
Bruce Gioffre, Barbash's attorney, told the press that the movie was based on court records and an interview done with Keo. He went on to say that although Barbash wasn't a dancer at that time, there was no doubt that Jennifer Lopez's character was based on his client.
A judge dismissed the lawsuit out of hand. There was nothing of merit.
The women have tried to rebuild their lives after the scam went bust. Barbash opened a spa for people who are recuperating from plastic and cosmetic surgery.
Keo decided to be a stay-at-home mom. Once Hustlers was released, she did some press and became a public figure in her own right. It is believed she is working on finishing her college degree in Psychology.
None of the women have apologized for their crimes. They feel they were entitled to rape, steal, and destroy the lives of their victims. It's been reported that they delighted in doing such terrible things.