Date Rape Drugs — Not Just for Cosby Anymore
Over the past couple of years there was a major bust of Scores strip club in New York after dancers slipped date rape drugs to customers and ran up tens of thousands of dollars in charges on their credit and debit cards.
It was exactly this same type of allegations of drugging and credit card fraud that got Club Paradise in Las Vegas closed in June 2014 by the Las Vegas Metro police and the FBI. (See: “Club Paradise is now Club Purgatory” and “Club Paradise Petitions Police to Reopen.” and “Club Paradise Closed by the Police (and IRS)!”)
Theft is not common in strip clubs. I love strip clubs. I’ve been going to strip clubs frequently all my life, and to Vegas strip clubs in particular since the early 1980s, and I’ve never experienced anything like a robbery or credit card fraud. But then, I know the Vegas strip club scene well enough to stay out of places where problems are more likely to happen and I never carry a credit or debit card to any strip club anywhere.
In any event, recent cases of strip club and sex worker fraud reported in the mainstream media have tended to have a lot of similarities. I’m going to describe the most common scam in detail so that you can identify potential problems quickly and defend yourself if it happens to you.
The way it works is that you are given a drink spiked with something like Ecstasy and/or ketamine or a similar “date rape” drug. You are talked into a sexual service or VIP dance that you normally wouldn’t agree to but which you suddenly find yourself unable to resist, despite your drinking only your usual, reasonable amount.
The thieves get hold of your wallet and one or more of your credit and debit cards, often because you hand it over to them to pay for the service. They ask you for the personal information (PINs, mother’s maiden name, Social Security number, etc.) required to run up charges on the card(s), and you provide the info easily under the influence of the drugs.
While the drugs are still kicking in, you may actually receive a dance or two or the sex you paid for while the thieves max out all your cards and empty your checking account. But often, the drugs kick in so quickly that you don’t receive any of the services you paid for.
In a report I received recently from a strip customer who believes he was drugged and defrauded, the customer said the dancers he was paying for sat around chatting once he got woozy.
A friend who got drugged and robbed (of a large amount of cash) by a “girl he met at the casino bar” in a Vegas hotel actually did manage to have sex with her before he passed out from the drugs, but the police later told him he was the exception, that the women who do this usually manage to knock you out before they have to deliver. For my friend’s account of this experience, see A High Roller Gets Rolled.
Either way, the next day you may have little memory of the evening before, and you will typically not find out that you were ripped off until days later, when you finally receive your bank statements or have trouble using your cards or you check your balances online. You may then choose not to report the crime, to avoid potential embarrassment. If you do report the crime, you may find you’re not believed.
Even I found these cases hard to believe when I first heard about them happening in strip clubs.
The Credit Card Fraud Case at Scores (New York)
Again, this type of scam is unlikely to happen to you. But also keep in mind that over and over the customers who were robbed felt safe because they’d been in strip clubs many times and knew how to fend off hustlers who were trying to talk them into the VIP. These were customers who never drank more than they could handle and were just looking for some relaxing fun.
According to a December 28, 2015 update on the case in the New York Daily News, Scores NY strippers Roselyn Keo and Samantha Barbash dosed customers with MDMA (Ecstasy) and ketamine (also known as Special K) and then maxed out their credit cards.
Keo told a NY Magazine reporter that the drugs were delivered via spiked drinks.
The MDMA made the guys happy, the ketamine screwed with their memory, and they often ended up blacking out. When, in the days or weeks after the event, a guy would call and complain about the size of his bill, Samantha would remind him what a good time he had, according to Rosie, who would sometimes listen in. “You were so happy, don’t you remember?” she would say. “You were tipping everyone.”
Wikipedia says: “In addition to its ability to cause confusion and amnesia, ketamine can leave non-educated or forced users vulnerable to date rape (i.e., because of the associated confusion and amnesia).”
Thegooddrugsguide.com says that ketamine would typically leave you conscious, but appearing intoxicated. It can leave you unable to think clearly, talk or move. And you can even lose consciousness if the dose you’re given is big enough, or especially if you’ve been drinking alcohol with the drug.
Tips on Prevention–Don’t Take Credit or Debit Cards to Strip Clubs
1. Don’t bring credit cards, debit cards or expensive watches or jewelry to strip clubs or sexual encounters with strangers. Bring cash, and only what you’ve budgeted to spend. And don’t think passwords, PINs, etc. are likely to protect you. Again, victims of Samantha Barbash and Roselyn Keo easily gave up this info after they were drugged.
So did customers at Club Paradise in Las Vegas.
A dancer who worked at Club Paradise during the period reported on in the newspaper links above told me that the dancers involved would keep an eye out for guys using high-end cards, like an American Express black card, or who had a wallet stuffed with credit cards and debit cards that could be maxed out.
This type of dancer has no mercy. She will max out every credit card in your wallet and empty your checking account as well if you have a debit card in your wallet that is linked to it.
I was told that sometimes the dancers involved would stick to smaller theft–getting you into the VIP for a thousand dollars you hadn’t intended to spend. A case was reported to me recently about a couple ripped off for $700. When they started to feel sick in the VIP, they immediately left the club. That may be the reason the dancer didn’t get a lot more.
Go to Reputable Strip Clubs
2. Go to reputable strip clubs and stay out of disreputable clubs. Palomino Club–one of the best clubs in Vegas–is owned by a local attorney with an outstanding reputation in the community. He is actively involved in the management of the club–there on a day-to-day basis to make sure nothing improper is going on.
Sapphire–also one of the best clubs in Vegas–is owned by billionaire businessmen and run by a businessman who’s highly respected for his involvement with and generosity to the community. Again, the owners are on-site and active on a day-to-day basis in the management of the club. They aren’t absentee.
Club Paradise, on the other hand, was owned for decades by Sam Cecola, a man with documented ties to the Chicago Mob. (Club Paradise has since been sold and reopened in January 2015 with a new owner.)
It’s not impossible for this to happen even at an honest club, as these types of scams can involve a single crooked dancer, sometimes in cahoots with a single rogue employee. But it’s a lot less likely at an honest club, because an honest club will deal fairly with a wronged customer, fire a dancer involved in suspicious incidents and press charges if there is sufficient proof.
The house knows who the dancer is, because she has to get a Sheriff’s card to dance in the first place, so unless a club is enabling the scam, it’s unlikely to happen more than once.
Stick to Legal Brothels
3. If you hire an escort, research a prospective escort online at respected sites like The Erotic Review or Eccie before setting up your date. (If you don’t have this kind of encounter regularly, you can get a 2-week membership at Eccie or 1-month membership at TER for around $20.) If dozens of guys have reported good experiences with this escort over an extended period, not only will you know that her photos are accurate and her skills up to par, but you are unlikely to get ripped off.
Or better yet, stick to Nevada’s 100% safe and legal brothels (see our page on Nevada’s legal brothels) when paying someone for sexual services.
Open Your Own Bottle and Don’t Lose Sight of Your Drink
4. Avoid making yourself vulnerable to a stranger you’ve just met in a bar, and if you go ahead and make yourself vulnerable anyway, don’t drink while you’re with her unless it’s from a bottle you’ve just opened and never lost sight of or you’re drinking water straight from the tap. The dancer, escort or pickup may be working with a bartender, cocktail waitress, host or other staff to slip the drugs into your drink. And don’t eat anything either.
How to Fight Back If You’ve Already Gone Ahead and Gotten Ripped Off
Get a Lab Test So You Have Proof
If you just had a suspicious experience, notify your bank and credit card providers immediately to put holds on your accounts.
If it’s already too late for that, get evidence of what happened immediately to strengthen your ability to fight back. Start by seeing your doctor or any doctor for testing for MDMA (Ecstasy), ketamine, and other date rape drugs.
MDMA is detectable in the blood for 24-96 hours.
The Good Drugs Guide says that “…norketamine, the breakdown product of Ketamine, is detectable in blood and urine for 7-14 days…,” with the blood test being the most accurate.
A lab can also detect these drug in a hair sample, and for a much longer period. A two-inch hair sample may be necessary, but it doesn’t have to come from your head.
A lab will have to run a panel of tests to cover all the possible date rape drugs that might have been used. That means these tests aren’t cheap. But a blood test, which has to be done immediately after the event, will be cheaper than a hair test, which can detect drugs months later. I recently heard a quote of $450 for a comprehensive hair test.
So get to your doctor for testing as soon as you possibly can after the incident. You can probably save yourself some money.
Contact the Club
If the incident happened in an establishment like a strip club or through a legitimate escort service, contact management and demand your money back. An honest business will take you seriously, be interested in the details of your story, investigate and get back to you. After the publicity about the scams at Club Paradise and Scores, you are more likely to be believed (if you provide the right details and your story is consistent with the evidence) and get a satisfactory resolution.
If you get a drug test that comes up positive for ketamine or any unusual prescription or illegal drugs, you will have a very strong case against the club. Tell the establishment that you will go to the police if the matter isn’t resolved, and then follow through.
Still, many club owners will resist reimbursing you. That’s because the bulk of the money stolen from you will have gone to the dancer, whom the club may never see again. And when the owner reviews the video tape of your encounter with the crooked dancer, it will probably look like you’re having a good time.
That’s why getting a drug test is so important.
If your drug test comes out positive for a date rape drug, the club continues to resist reimbursing you, and the amount of money is substantial, see a lawyer. If you need an attorney in Vegas, I recommend Bob Nersesian, who has won a number of unusual cases for friends and is willing to take this type of case if your drug test turns out positive. You can reach him at (702) 385-5454.
Call the Police
If a club or other establishment resolves the matter to your satisfaction, I’d leave it to them to report the criminals to the police. An honest establishment will press charges against thieves if they have sufficient evidence.
If you found an escort through a service or website, report him or her there.
If you can’t get satisfaction from a club or service or website, or you found an escort or pick-up on the street, call the police. The suspects may be in another city by now, but they may get arrested sooner or later and your report may help get them prosecuted.
And if there are enough complaints about a club, the FBI will eventually be called in to investigate. That’s how Club Paradise finally got shut down.