LOS ANGELES, Calif. — Prosecutors in Los Angeles filed extortion charges against a defendant known as the “Dine-and-Dash Dater.”
Paul Guadalupe Gonzales, 45, is accused of 11 counts of extortion and two counts of attempted extortion for luring women to nice restaurants, ordering food and vanishing — leaving his victims with an expensive bill.
The public defender’s office has not returned calls for comment.
One victim said she wrote a check for $218 to Houston’s restaurant in Pasadena after Gonzales walked out on the bill.
The woman, who asked to remain anonymous, said she met the man on the dating site Bumble.
“We just chatted back and forth. He was charming,” the victim continued. “He said, ‘Why not meet somewhere?'”
She said Gonzales ordered drinks and the most expensive item on Houston’s menu. The Houston’s website lists its top item as a steak for $48.
The woman said Gonzales told her when he first sat down for dinner he would have to make a phone call later to check on his aunt, who was hospitalized.
After the meal, Gonzales made his call and disappeared, she recalled.
“He left after most of his food was gone,” she said. “I’ve never seen anybody eat so fast.”
It didn’t occur to her that someone would walk out on her.
“That just never came to mind,” the woman said. “What is he benefiting from it, really? Is that all you want, is a free meal?”
‘A lot of scammers out there’
Gonzales is accused of repeating his dine-and-dash crimes throughout Los Angeles.
Carol Meredith got left with the bill at Mercado in Pasadena, but managers picked up her tab.
Meredith also met Gonzales on Bumble.
“I’ve had friends who’ve been very successful with online dating, I’ve had some not so good experiences,” Meredith told CNN.
“I just kind of feel like maybe online dating might not be for me. I mean there are a lot of scammers out there.”
Psychologist Lisa Strohman, who specializes in treating patients suffering from social media and technology-related problems, says the internet allows dating predators to cast a wide net.
The explosion of dating sites “puts it on overdrive,” Strohman explains. “Predators can use technology now to manipulate, groom, lure and get people where they want them without any risk to themselves.”
Dine and Dash vs. Dye and Dash
Prosecutors said the spree occurred from May 2016 through April 2018.
“In short, the defendant’s wrongful conduct induced innocent third parties to pay for his meal, using the implied threat of public humiliation or being viewed as an accomplice,” a criminal complaint said.
Gonzales is also accused of “dye and dasher.”
Burbank authorities and two hair salons told CNN that Gonzales got his hair colored and skipped out on the bills — in one instance still wearing a towel around his neck.
LA County authorities are also charging Gonzales, who is currently jailed, with petty theft for another dye and dash incident.
The suspect is scheduled to be in court Tuesday for a preliminary hearing, the district attorney said. His bail was set at $315,000.
Meredith expects to testify about her ordeal with courtship that started with a swipe right and took a left turn during the date.
“You just have to be careful out there,” Meredith said. “You can’t judge a book by its cover.”
If convicted, Gonzales faces a possible maximum penalty of 16 years and 10 months in county jail.