Come for the Strippers, Stay for the Duplicity
(“Summer Obsession,” Forensic Files)
Craig Rabinowitz had a baby daughter, a lawyer wife, and a house in a wealthy suburban area of Philadelphia.
Unfortunately, he didn’t have a career of his own. So he fabricated one, as an entrepreneur who imported and sold surgical gloves wholesale.
Slippery heel. His business, C&C Supplies Inc., never existed, but Rabinowitz fooled just about everyone into thinking it did.
The 34-year-old possessed enough charm and credibility to entice friends and relatives to invest a total of about $800,000 into his faux venture.
His in-laws, Anne and Louis Newman, used their own house as collateral to secure a $96,500 loan he said he needed for his business, according to a Sept. 30, 1997, Philadelphia Inquirer story by reporter Anne Barnard.
He needed the money, especially once he became a father.
A baby, a pay cut. After giving birth to the couple’s daughter, Stefanie Rabinowitz switched to part-time status at the law firm where she worked, taking a pay cut to $33,000 a year, according to a Washington Post article by reporter Debbie Goldberg.
That wasn’t enough to pay off the couple’s $300,000 mortgage debt or buy a sufficient sum of Delilah’s Dollars — vouchers used to pay exotic dancers, aka strippers — to hold the attention of Shannon Reinert, with whom Craig Rabinowitz became infatuated after seeing her perform at Delilah’s Den.
Last week’s post suggested that the stripper factor contributed in large part to the popularity of “Summer Obsession,” the Forensic Files episode about the Rabinowitz murder.
Guilty displeasure. And I’m pretty sure that it’s not just the male viewers who like watching the on-screen parade of peroxide and silicone.
Although we don’t like to admit it, a lot of us women feel compelled to size ourselves up against the 1 percent who look commercially attractive in G-strings.
In the case of “Summer Obsession,” however, the opportunity to look at semi-naked women rubbing themselves against poles may be the catnip that attracted so many viewers, but it’s the double-life aspect of Craig Rabinowitz’s story that has kept them interested.
In a bid to neatly rid himself of his debts and marriage and also finance his pursuit of Reinert (known as “Summer” at Delilah’s Den), Rabinowitz came up with a murder-insurance fraud scheme.
Arrogant adulterer. Up until then, he had managed to compartmentalize his thieving and lecherous behavior well enough to avoid raising suspicion among his family and friends.
The errant husband garnered so much success with his duplicity that he must have felt invincible on April 29, 1997.
That night, he gave his wife a beverage laced with Ambien, waited until she fell unconscious, and drowned her in the tub. He then called 911 and reported finding her unresponsive.
The staged scene looked enough like an accidental drowning to satisfy the authorities at first.
In keeping with Jewish custom, Craig and his late wife’s parents, the Newmans, planned to bury Stefanie Rabinowitz by the next sundown.
Intriguing find. Fortunately, the coroner insisted on a delay in order to do a full autopsy. Forensic pathologist Ian Hood found petechial hemorrhages and other signs that Stefanie was strangled and held underwater until she died.
After searching the couple’s home, police found a crawlspace containing some receipts and handwritten ledgers. With the help of a forensic accountant, detectives used the crude evidence to uncover Rabinowitz’s secret life.
Ricardo Zayas, CPA, determined that Rabinowitz was spending up to $3,000 a week at Delilah’s. He found that C&C Supplies Inc. never bought or sold gloves, or did anything other than help its “owner” dupe investors.
No explaining it away. Rabinowitz, it turned out, had been placating investors by giving them small payments from money newer investors lent him. He was running a Ponzi scheme.
And his investors were expecting him to give them larger payments pronto.
Rabinowitz wanted to use Stefanie’s $1.5 million life insurance payout to make his investors whole, pay off his mortgage, and underwrite his relationship with Summer.
Confronted with the extensive evidence against him, Rabinowitz confessed to the murder and financial crimes, ending his double life and starting a singular one as an inmate with no possibility of parole.— RR
Update: Read Part 3 of the Craig Rabinowitz saga, a Q&A with forensic accountant Ricardo Zayas from the Philadelphia firm Marcum LLP.