"I don't think I was a con woman. I'm a businesswoman. I was just in the wrong business,' Roselyn "Rosie" Keo explained.
Constance Wu plays an exotic dancer who swindles strip club patrons in the new film "Hustlers".
And her real life counterpart, Roselyn "Rosie" Keo, revealed how the outrageous fraud came to be during an interview with ABC News on Thursday.
"I don't think I was a con woman. I'm a businesswoman. I was just in the wrong business," Keo began as she detailed how she went from a diner waitress to an exotic dancer to the mastermind behind a scheme that bamboozled wealthy men out of hundreds of thousands of dollars.
At the age of 17, Keo started waiting tables in Nanuet, New York.
"That's when I started hustling, 'cause you know, you work off of tips," she said. "You know, the harder you work and the nicer you are, the more money you're gonna get."
Soon she began dancing at the gentlemen's club next door, which eventually led her to making $10,000 a night.
But with the onset of the 2008 financial crisis, Keo looked for other opportunities to supplement her wavering income.
She recruited Samantha Barbash, who inspired Jennifer Lopez's character in the film, and Karina Pascucci to "trick, manipulate and drug unsuspecting wealthy men" for their own gain.
"I would like to think Samantha was the CEO and I was the CFO," Keo said.
The women would "fish" for men in nearby bars, bring them to the strip club, and feed them cocktails with a "sprinkle of MDMA and ketamine". Then they would run up thousands of dollars in bills on the men's credit cards.
"I didn't think what I was doing was wrong," Keo recalled. "Now, looking back, it's crazy."
The women were eventually caught after a New Jersey cardiologist figured out the plot and worked with federal agencies to bring down the ring.
Keo, Barbash and Pascucci were charged with grand larceny and conspiracy among other charges. They all accepted plea deals.
"For me, the women in the story are very strong…the truth is they're survivors," Lopez told ABC News. "We're all hustling. That's the point. That's why the movie is very universal… Because at the end of the day, it's all metaphoric for what everybody's doin' in their life."
Keo is now working on her memoir.
"You know, everything happens for a reason, and I feel like the reason I got arrested was so I could change my life around," Keo explained.
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