The scam was simple but brazen.
Lure wealthy men in upscale restaurants and bars in the New York City area to nearby strip clubs.
Once there, escort the men — the scammers called them “sharks” — to secret rooms where they would slip ketamine and MDMA into their drinks.
Then, charge thousands of dollars to their credit cards.
“The more intoxicated you get, the more you are going to spend. And that is the game there — to make you spend more,” Robert Boyce, former NYPD chief of detectives, says in an interview with ABC’s 20/20, which airs tonight on ABC at 10 ET. (An exclusive clip obtained by PEOPLE is shown above.)
Former stripper Roselyn Keo, one of the women who participated in the scam, explains in the clip, “It’s a rush, you get a high, a rush from it.”
Keo adds, “When you first meet a customer, you don’t know what kind of buying power they have. The first thing you have to do is have a drink with them.”
“All of a sudden the numbers go off in your head, like, ‘OK this guy makes X amount of dollars,’” she says. “He can afford the Champagne room.”
An evening in the Champagne room would set a patron back around $600 to $1,000.
“I was making my tuition in one night,” says Keo. “I was like, ‘Oh My gosh, school can wait.’”
The real life scam, which was perpetrated by a group of ex-strippers, became the inspiration behind the movie Hustlers, starring Jennifer Lopez, Cardi B and Constance Wu as Keo.
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The scam victims included a cardiologist named Dr. Zyad Younan, who became alarmed after his credit card company contacted him about $135,000 worth of charges from a New York City gentleman’s club. He later told police that he had gone on three dates with Karina Pascucci — and after each date he woke up without knowing what happened the night before.
Younan was sued by the club for the bar tab, but he countersued. In 2018, a judge ruled that he was the victim of “criminal conduct,” and didn’t have to pay the reimburse the club, Fox News reports.
Other victims included a banker, a hedge fund executive and a real estate attorney.
The women were eventually busted after the Drug Enforcement Agency and NYPD set up a sting operation at a luxury hotel.
Keo, Pascucci and others were charged with crimes. Keo took a plea deal to grand larceny and assault and avoided jail, Time reports. Pascucci pleaded guilty to conspiracy and grand larceny and served four months of weekends in jail, Time reports.
The 20/20 special also features exclusive TV interviews with Pascucci, Younan, who helped police in the investigation, DEA agents Eric Triana and James Mannick, as well as NYPD Detective Danny Politowski.
20/20 airs on ABC tonight at 10 ET.