A Canadian IT specialist working in Malta says he was scammed out of over €10,000 during a long night of drinking with working girls in a Paceville strip club.
“It is extremely difficult for me to come forward with this due to the trauma I feel. I believe I was drugged and coerced to either reveal my credit card pin numbers or to make outrageous €1,000 purchases and ATM cash withdrawals,” Bern told Lovin Malta from Barcelona.
Bern did not expect to be calling his wife on the eve of their 15-year-anniversary to explain that he’d cancelled their credit cards because they had been maxed out in a strip club. And when he tried to file a police report about the incident, he was told to he could face up to two years in prison if he was found to be lying.
Now, he wants to share his story in the hopes that he is the last person that ever goes through such an experience.
“On Monday night, I left Malta to go to Spain to meet my wife for our 15th wedding anniversary, which is on November 6th,” Bern said.
He had come to Malta to help his company physically move items into their new office before embarking on a two week holiday with his wife. However, he’s been severely hit financially after paying for a night out on the town.
“We were supposed to have a nice vacation for two weeks. Instead, it was a very traumatic event for both of us,” he said.
“I am full of mixed emotions, from anger, to depression, to sheer sadness that such a thing could happen to me. I also reflected and realised I was extremely lucky to be unhurt.”
The night of Saturday, 2nd November started innocently enough for Bern and his friend.
After pre-drinking at their AirBnB, they bussed it to St Julian’s and hit up some bars there. After two or three drinks, they walked up the hill and were approached by some girls. Though they weren’t planning on going to a gentleman’s club, they accepted the girls’ invitation and followed them into their club.
The girls split up the two men, taking them to separate booths.
“There were two or three girls at my booth, Romanian and Moldovan, and they asked me to buy them drinks,” Bern recounts. “I said ‘OK’ and they brought back shooters. I remember paying for this with my Apple Pay and we were having conversations.”
“It was at this point where my memory starts getting hazy and I’m not sure what actually occurred and in which order, but this is my best recollection of the night.”
“They asked me to buy them more drinks.”
“I don’t remember saying yes but I must have because they brought more,” Bern continues.
“I remember feeling really drunk and at one point started refusing to drink. I remember they were forcing the shot glass in front of my mouth and I guess I eventually gave up and took the drink. Still much of a blur around this time. I remember I felt really nauseous and all of a sudden had to throw up.”
When he began vomiting, the staff took him to the bathroom.
“In the stall I puked as much as I could and I knew I had had way too much, so after puking I sat on the toilet, put my head down and closed my eyes. I don’t know how long I was there, but eventually the bouncers started coming in and knocking and checking on me. I didn’t respond because I wanted to sober up.”
“I remember someone putting a wet towel on the back of my neck but I don’t know for how long.”
After a while, the bouncers started knocking again.
“This time they were yelling at me, telling me I needed to get out of the bathroom for whatever reasons. They started to push the stall door and it was pushing against my head. As they kept pushing and it kept hitting my head, I finally had enough and I gave it a really hard push back. This broke the top half of the stall door and I opened my eyes and I saw several huge bouncers yelling at me,” he said.
After the bathroom stall door broke, the bouncers really wanted him out.
“The stall door was closed, but since the top half of it broke off I can see them all, with the door separating us. I was pissed and didn’t care how big and angry they were. I told them ‘hey! I’m drunk and I just want to sober up! So just let me go ahead and do that’.”
“They kept saying I needed to get out of there, and I finally said ‘go call the police’.”
Eventually, a police officer showed up.
“The bouncers and officer started talking to each other in Maltese and at one point the officer said to them ‘no’, then he pointed to me, said ‘you – get out of here’. So I let them escort me out of the place and walked up the hill to Burger King.”
“At this point, I still felt extremely drunk but was somewhat aware of what was going on around me.”
Bern wanted to go home, so he texted his friend, who was still in the club “having a good time with the girl he was with.” Eventually he told him to leave without him, so Bern went to order a taxi, but he was fading in and out of awareness.
“I ended up just sitting by Burger King and I guess the taxi came and left,” he said. “So at this point, I decided to check my credit card balance on my phone. I noticed a charge of over $1,400 in Canadian dollars, and another charge of around $599. I checked inside my wallet and noticed that the 80 euros I had in there was gone. One of my credit cards was also not in the usual spot in my wallet.”
“And I remember thinking that these guys scammed me!”
Down over $2,000, Bern looked for the police officer who had escorted him out of the club.
“I told him that those guys scammed me on my credit card and took my cash. He asked me what I wanted him to do about it and I said I wanted him to get it back for me. He appeared reluctant but ended up going. I didn’t keep track of which direction he went so I don’t know if he really did go, but after a while he came back and told me that no, they didn’t have it,” he said.
Bern decided to go back to the club himself to confront the staff.
“So at this point I should be really pissed at being scammed and robbed, but for some reason when I got there I seemed to be calm and actually friendly. I kept telling them my card was missing, I remember I even said sorry to one of the bouncers for pushing the door on him,” he said.
He found one of the girls he had spent the night with, and accused her of taking his card. She told him to “empty his pockets”, and when he was unable to because of his drunkenness, she helped him pull it out.
“So at this point, I should still be pissed off about those thousand plus charges right?” Bern asked. “But instead I didn’t seem to be and the girls asked me to come back inside. For some insane reason, I forgot they scammed me and I followed them back in.”
Already $2,000 in the hole, Bern re-entered the club, and began ordering more drinks for the girls. He eventually passed out.
“They took me to another booth and proceeded to order drinks. I don’t remember drinking anything that time, but at that point I either blacked out or passed out,” he said.
“After that, I remember waking up alone in the booth, and my wallet and phone are laying on the seat next to me. I picked them up, and checked my wallet. I noticed the cards were all in the wrong spots, and my IDs (Canadian license and health card) were in the pockets instead of where they normally are in the money part.”
He found one of the girls and began complaining to her – but soon enough, he was back inside buying drinks for her.
“She asked me to buy her drinks and I said OK,” he recounts. “Later on she said I can talk to her and hang out for €100 and I said OK. I was fairly aware what was happening by this time but for some reason it was as if I had no free will and whatever they suggested I just kept saying OK. The girl asked me if I wanted to take her home for €500 and I said OK.”
“One of the workers gave me the card machine and at this point my card started getting declined.”
They told him he needed to continue the night with another card, so he pulled out another one – but it got declined as well.
“Then they told me there was an ATM machine outside the club and I can try taking out cash then. I said OK, but the same cards that I tried were also declined. So finally she told me I had no more money, and left me.”
By now it was around 8am in the morning, and the sun was up. He tried to call a cab home, but realised he had no cash or credit to get back home.
“I was conscious enough to call my credit card companies and tell them what happened. They were somewhat helpful and told me that they will cancel my card and launch an investigation. I took the cab home and went to sleep until around 12 pm,” he said.
After he woke up, it began to dawn on him just how much money he had lost.
“When I woke up, I checked my credit card balances again, and only then did I realise they charged my cards all the way until they reached their limit! The one card had a limit of $10,000 and before the night only had a balance of $1400. But I saw almost a dozen transactions from the club and a couple of ATM withdrawals, and my card was $1,500 over the limit,” he said.
“I checked my other card which had a limit of $4000, and was also charged to the limit.”
After trying to recollect what happened, and being thankful that he wasn’t harmed physically, he went to the St Julian’s police station to file a report that he had been scammed.
He was told that he would need to submit an original document from his bank showing the charges in question – he could not send it by email. Seeing as he was leaving the island the next day, he told the officer it was impossible, and asked if he could send the documents.
“He then told me that there have actually been a lot of reports of this happening. I thought to myself ‘what a relief! I’m not the only one!’ But then the officer said a lot of the reports were fake, and added that if I wanted to make those reports or statements and they turn out to be fake, that he would put me in jail for two years, so I better be careful of what I do.”
Eventually, Bern said he filed a report via the police website. He then had to leave Malta for Barcelona to meet his wife for an anniversary holiday that included a trip to the Canary Islands.
“We can’t even carry on with our plans because of the financial burden we will be in because of this. We had to cancel our credit cards because we are joint holders, and on top of that I just realised that my bank debit card is also missing, which I didn’t realise before,” he said. Luckily there doesn’t seem to be any unauthorised charges or withdrawals from it.”
When he told his wife what had happened, she was furious at first. But then she said she was relieved he was still alive.
“We still agree that I am extremely lucky given I am out $15,000, but still have my life,” he said. There are many many ways this could have ended tragically,” he said. “She is a very supportive and understanding woman and I am lucky to have her.”
Bern believes he was drugged at some point in the night which led him to lose all inhibitions and just keep saying OK to all the things the women offered.
“I really don’t know what was given to me but it is some really really scary stuff. I started searching and saw that this type of thing has been happening to people for probably decades now. I am one of the unlucky ones, and now have a little less trust in humankind. I would really love to bring these people to justice so that they pay for these crimes. I’m sure I’m not the first, and if nothing is done I’m sure I won’t be the last,” he said.
Since regaining his senses, he’s looked into undergoing a toxicology report, for everything from date rape drugs to MDMA to Devil’s Breath. He is expecting to see results within a few months, and hopes that one day he can regain the money he spent during that fateful night.