Craig Rabinowitz’s Gratuitous Crime

Fraud and Murder for Tip Money
(“Summer Obsession,” Forensic Files)

The Forensic Files episode about Craig Rabinowitz —  a  popular Philadelphia husband, father, and entrepreneur who turned out to be a murderer running a fraudulent investing scheme — has racked up 708,819 views on YouTube.

Craig Rabinowitz after his arrest in 1997
Craig Rabinowitz after his arrest in 1997

Meanwhile, the other five cases I’ve covered on “True Crime Truant” to date have attracted barely 1 million views combined.

The closest runner-up, “Grave Danger,” got only 378,577 views, despite that the story of Molly and Clay Daniels’ grave-robbing insurance fraud plot was a global sensation, attracting not only Forensic Files but also Dateline NBC and news outlets as distant as Japan.

Dancers in the dark. Of course, the Daniels fiasco distinguished itself mostly for the ineptitude of its underemployed perpetrators whereas the Rabinowitz case involved a tragic, deadly crime committed amid affluence and social prominence.

Still, I think a great deal of the popularity of “Summer Obsession” comes from one particular factor: It had a stripper.

In this case, one Shannon Reinert (spelled “Reinhart” in some media outlets), who danced under the name Summer.

Gentleman's club at the center of a murder case.
Gentlemen’s club Rabinowitz frequented

Rabinowitz spent upward of $100,000 on her at Delilah’s Den, the club where Summer danced.

Tempting subject. He led a double life, ultimately swindling his friends and killing his wife, Stefanie Newman Rabinowitz, in an effort to keep himself in lap-dance funds.

Apparently, even a true-crime series as tastefully done as Forensic Files can’t pass up any opportunity to show scenes from a strip club.

Plus, in this case, there was also an on-camera interview with one of Reinert’s former colleagues, Miss Bunny.

That kind of thing is, it seems, what the people want.

Miss Bunny went on to appear in HBO's "G String Divas"
Miss Bunny, seen here on “Forensic Files,” went on to appear in the HBO documentary series “G String Divas”

Actually, I can attest to that, although I’ve never been inside a gentlemen’s club.

Brush with the biz. Years ago, at a back-office job at a commodities trading firm, I shared a quiet office with two other women. One of them, Shari, augmented her $18,000-a-year salary by working as a topless dancer at night.

Workflow at our office jobs was rather patchy, so Denise and I had plenty of time to hear stories about Shari’s night job.

And we were fascinated by the details, to be sure.

Shari started out dancing in a bikini but quickly realized that nudity paid a lot more. She got gigs at the clubs through a booking service, although exploitation seemed at a minimum.

VIP treatment. As I recall it, the clubs — not the dancers — paid the agency’s commissions. Shari got to keep all of her tips.

“At the end of the night,” Shari said, “a security guard escorts you to your car.”

Shari made hundreds of dollars a night in cash, untaxed. She kept it hidden beneath some floorboards in an apartment she shared with her boyfriend and another couple, consisting of her best friend, Cassandra, and her boyfriend.

Cassandra also danced topless at night. She worked at a Clinique counter at Macy’s during the day.

Made for TV. And both their boyfriends danced at clubs where female patrons tipped them for stripping.

All this happened, I should mention, before reality TV came along. Two couples who share an apartment and strip would be can’t-miss programming today.

(Note: Shari, Cassandra, and their boyfriends never said “stripping.” “Dancing” was the preferred term: “We get along really well because we all dance.”)

Cash on the side. Shari, bless her, was willing to satisfy our curiosity about the revenue management.

“What do you do with the tips while you’re up there performing?” I asked her.

“I keep a little satin purse off to the side on the floor and drop them in there,” she said. “Then I take the bag when I exit the stage.”

Similarly to the way Summer interacted with Craig Rabinowitz, Shari had a couple of faithful customers who gravitated to her and gave her bigger tips than the other men in the audience.

Best practices. Oh, and Cassandra and Shari usually wore wigs on stage.

“Well, it finally happened,” Shari said one day. “Cassandra started dancing without her wig and somebody at Macy’s recognized her.”

Shari and I lost touch after we left that firm, although she’s stayed in my thoughts after all these years.

I miss talking to her because, even in the worlds in which she was immersed, she had an outsider’s eye for details. She would have been a great writer.

Of course, Denise and I were interested in Shari’s part-time job because of curiosity about the life of a stripper.

Shannon "Summer" Reinhart in a screen shot from "Forensic Files."
Shannon Reinert, seen here in 1997, was a dancer and single mother when Rabinowitz met her

Craig Rabinowitz, on the other hand, wanted to actually become part of a stripper’s life.

Think accounting’s dull? Next week’s post will give more detail about the crimes committed by Rabinowitz.

And the blog post coming up after that one will feature an interview with forensic accountant Ricardo Zayas, who used his CPA skills and a bag of receipts to help police build their case against Rabinowitz.

Until then, cheers.RR 

Update: Read Part 2 of the Craig Rabinowitz story.

1 thought on “Craig Rabinowitz’s Gratuitous Crime”

  1. Sounds like a modern day version of Zola’s “Nana,” where a normally reasonable businessman gradually ruins himself chasing after a woman he’s obsessed with. What’s wrong with people?!

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