A Superior Court judge in Pasadena Wednesday dismissed 10 felony charges against a so-called “Dine-and-Dash Dater'” who was accused of walking out on checks while on dates with various women at restaurants in Long Beach and other cities.
But Judge Darrell Mavis ordered Paul Guadalupe Gonzales to stand trial on a pair of misdemeanors—petty theft and defrauding an innkeeper. He is due back in court for arraignment Monday, when prosecutors may ask another judge to consider reinstating the felony charges.
Mavis reduced Gonzales’ bail to $100,000.
Following a preliminary hearing, Mavis said he did not dispute that the women Gonzales allegedly abandoned at restaurants were victims.
“But victims of what crime? … That’s really the issue,” the judge said.
Gonzales, 45, had been charged with eight felony counts of extortion and two felony counts of attempted extortion involving 10 women, along with the misdemeanor counts. Four other counts—three counts of extortion and one count of defrauding an innkeeper—were dismissed at the onset of the preliminary hearing, with the prosecution citing the unavailability of witnesses.
Gonzales’ attorney, Deputy Public Defender Salvador Salgado, hailed the judge’s decision to dismiss the felonies.
“From the very beginning I have advised the District Attorney’s Office that this was not the appropriate charge, and it was confirmed today,” Salgado said. “… He has to rule on what has been filed.”
During the preliminary hearing, seven women told Mavis they were “embarrassed” and believed they had no choice but to pay the bill when they realized the man they had met for a first date had left the restaurants without paying any portion of the check. Gonzales allegedly met the women through online dating sites and took them to restaurants in cities including Pasadena, Glendale, Long Beach and the Beverly Hills area.
One of the women, Martha Barba, testified that she knew she would be left with the bill the moment he walked out of a Houston’s restaurant in Pasadena.
Barba said she met Gonzales through the online dating site Plenty of Fish and agreed to meet him for dinner at a Chipotle restaurant in Pasadena, but he subsequently asked to leave the fast-food eatery and go to the nearby Houston’s while assuring her that he would pick up the tab.
Gonzales “mentioned something about Facetiming with his kids” after the two ate, and said he said he had to go outside to speak with them, but never returned, according to Barba.
Barba said she asked the waitress for the bill—which she thought was close to $200—and paid it using part of her rent money because she was embarrassed about what had happened.
“I felt humiliated a little bit,” she said.
Other women called to the stand had similar accounts.
Wendy Luttrell told the judge that she met Gonzales through a dating site and agreed to meet him in February at Parkway Grill in Pasadena, then realized she had been left behind with the check just over a half-hour after he said he needed to wire money to his daughters in college in Arizona.
“I don’t have a choice. He left so I had to pay the bill,” she said, noting that it wasn’t the restaurant’s fault “that he’s a jerk.”
All the women said Gonzales chose the restaurants where they met for their first dates, and some said they later contacted the dating site where they had first encountered him to inform them what had happened.
Gonzales also received a haircut and color treatment from a Pasadena salon in April and left without paying, according to court documents.
The criminal complaint alleges that the crimes occurred between May 2016 and April 2018.
Salgado argued during the hearing that the women cannot be considered victims of someone who walks out on a bill, insisting that the entity that would be “out” the money would be the restaurant—not the person with whom his client was allegedly sitting.
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