The Nauseating Rise and Fall of an Upper West Side Socialite Scammer

25 Riverside Drive

25 Riverside Drive (Google Maps)

She was born to modest means in Brooklyn and became–if only for a few years–an Upper West Side socialite. But she was nasty to the hired help, and it all came crashing down.

Advertisement


In the early 1990s, Dina Wein Reis began her National Distribution Program scam. She persuaded Fortune 500 executives to let her purchase their companies’ products at an 85 percent discount. The companies agreed to this massive markdown because they were led to believe their product would be distributed as samples to schools, nursing homes, military bases, and charities. These can be difficult markets to break into, so the companies were interested.

Wein Reis’ pitch didn’t stop there. She promised the Fortune 500 execs that if reaction to their products was favorable, the firms would be invited to sell their goods to her “exclusive network” of 6,500 retailers.

Most effectively, Wein Reis enticed the execs by pretending she wanted to hire them to work alongside her. This is where Dina Wein Reis truly excelled. She was an attractive woman with an absolute genius for turning male vanity into hard cash. In the memorable phrase from a Fortune magazine profile, she “left her marks flat on their backs, gasping.”

Get ILTUWS in Your Inbox

Of course, there was never a job on the table. There was no National Distribution Program. There was no exclusive network. It was all a fantasy. Once the companies had shipped the discounted goods, most never heard from Wein Reis again.

Advertisement


Instead, Wein Reis and her team sold the goods at a substantial profit to middlemen, who in turn sold them to big retail chains, grocery stores, and wholesalers.

To keep the scam going, Wein Reis used a dozen aliases to run 100 different shell companies. She survived on complexity and illusion. Later, a former employee recounted how Wein Reis would change the nameplates outside her Manhattan office between appointments, to reflect whatever company she was pretending to be at that time.

“It got confusing for me sometimes, keeping up with it,” said the ex-employee. “But she pulled it off. It was perfect theater.”

And it was extraordinarily lucrative. She owned houses in Westhampton Beach, N.Y., Bal Harbor, Florida., and Jerusalem. On a loan application she estimated her net worth at $200 million. Like everything else in Dina Wein Reis’ life, that was an exaggeration.

ALSO READ: Powerful Crime Bosses Once Lived at The Majestic on Central Park West

Her six story Upper West Side townhouse at 25 Riverside Drive was featured in Architectural Digest.  Her art collection inside the townhouse included Robert Motherwells, a Modigliani portrait, and an original portrait of Truman Capote done by Andy Warhol. She had a collection of Rolexes, necklaces, bracelets, earrings and cufflinks from Tiffany and Cartier.

The townhouse rooms were stuffed with an eclectic collection of treasures, from La Farge stained-glass doors to canvases by Frank Stella and Thomas Hart Benton. There were two Louis XVI footstools, two Bugatti throne chairs, a pair of Empire sleigh beds, and a 1920s cast-iron vanity.

When her assets were seized after her arrest, the feds needed two moving vans to haul away the trove from the townhouse. The federal agents were overwhelmed by the quantities of loot. The FBI special agent supervising the case said, “It was like King Tut’s tomb.”

Advertisement


But more important to Wein Reis than the things the scam brought her was the status it gave her. She lived like gentry. She cultivated friendships in New York society. She was a fixture at fundraisers–a fashionista, always in expensive clothes and flashing lots of bling. She hosted lavish parties for the Whitney Museum of American Art. Not bad for a girl who grew up in Borough Park, Brooklyn, the youngest of the three kids of Vivian and Solomon Wein, an apparel manufacturer.

ALSO READ: The Old Counterfeiter of 96th Street

Wein Reis ran her exquisitely orchestrated swindle for more than a decade. She ultimately scammed more than 50 companies in 18 states. Over the years, her victims included big players like Revlon, Bausch & Lomb, Sarah Lee, Pfizer, Bayer, Gilette, Campbell Soup, Colgate-Palmolive, Eastman Kodak, Nestle, Jergens, Kellogg’s, Heinz, Melitta, 3M, Kimberly-Clark, Kraft, Schering-Plough, Procter & Gamble, and Unilever. Dina Wein Reis was a busy girl.

In 1995, Hershey Foods, Golden Grain/Quaker Oats, and Warner Lambert all hit Wein Reis with lawsuits. Without the testimony of someone inside the scam, she might have stayed rich and out of jail.

But, unfortunately for Wein Reis, she was a vicious boss. “Dina went through assistants like toilet paper,” recalls one employee who was fired. Her behavior could swing from empathy to callousness in an instant.

One worker took off Thursday and Friday to attend her grandfather’s funeral and received a call from Wein Reis the following Monday: “I’m sorry about your grandfather. You’re fired.”

ALSO READ: Crime Reports from the Early 1900s

A weeping assistant recounted to the company’s top finance official that Wein Reis had once handed her a pair of dirty panties and ordered her to put them in the hamper.

Advertisement


But Wein Reis was nasty once too often. She fired one employee—a former teacher at Wein Reis’ kids’ school —after the employee injured her foot on an assignment for Wein Ries. The employee blew the whistle on the scam. Had Wein Reis treated employees less like servants and more like employees, she might have escaped.

Instead, she did 19 months of federal time, paid a $1 million fine and $7 million in restitution to her victims. She was released in 2014.

ALSO READ: Why Thousands of Crimes Have Been Reported at 312 Riverside Drive: MYSTERY SOLVED

When she listed her Riverside Drive mansion in 2022, the listing agents said she was selling 25 Riverside Drive because she and her husband–David Reis (who changed his name from Ruiz)–wanted to spend more time in Florida. The home is currently on the market for $55 million.

According to her LinkedIN page, Reis founded Reis Magazine, Inc. in 2017. An associated Facebook page (which links to her personal IG account and last posted in 2017) describes “Reismag” as “the place to go to experience fashion, beauty, art, design, film and more from all over the globe.” The address listed for Reismag, 322 West 75th Street, is an alternate address for 25 Riverside Drive.


.





Sharing is caring!

Tags:

Latest Comments

  1. EL July 7, 2024
    • Patty July 8, 2024
      • J. L. Rivers July 8, 2024
      • tobias mostel July 9, 2024
  2. Karmela lozina July 8, 2024
    • Lily F. July 8, 2024
    • Ish Kabibble July 8, 2024
  3. Eric July 8, 2024
    • K L July 9, 2024
      • J. L. Rivers July 9, 2024

Leave a Reply

Advertisement