NEW YORK (AP) — It's a tawdry tale of New York City strippers on the prowl for men with money, drinks spiked with illegal synthetic drugs and runaway credit card charges at topless clubs.
Some of the men say they have little or no memory of any of it. But investigators filled in the blanks for them on Wednesday by announcing the arrests of four women — all described as professional strippers — and a club manager on charges including grand larceny, assault and forgery.
The five were accused of teaming up to rip off a combined $200,000 from a New Jersey doctor, a banker, a hedge fund executive and a real estate attorney in a credit card scam during the last four months of 2013.
None of the victims was named in court papers. But a lawyer for Dr. Zyad Younan, a cardiologist at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, identified his client as one of them.
One of the women, Karina Pascucci, and the manager, Carmine Vitolo, pleaded not guilty on Wednesday in state court in Manhattan. The other three defendants, including suspected ringleader Samantha Barbash, were arraigned on Tuesday.
Barbash's attorney, Stephen Murphy, said Wednesday that his client denies the charges. Pascucci's lawyer, Patrick Parrotta, said his client is a college student with no criminal record who worked as a waitress at Scores in Manhattan but never stripped there. A lawyer for Vitolo, Murray Richman, denied charges the club manager helped set up the men.
According to Drug Enforcement Administration and New York Police Department investigators, the scheme began with the women going on "fishing" expeditions at bars in midtown Manhattan and on Long Island to lure in victims. On follow-up dates, they secretly dosed the victim's drinks with the stimulant methylone, commonly known as "molly," or the tranquilizer ketamine.
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