the Dine-and-Dash Dater
August 13, 2019 11:02 AM   Subscribe

“Look how beautiful she is!” said Paul, as the waitress seated the couple. Then, loud enough for everyone to hear, he boomed: “I don’t deserve to be with her! She’s so gorgeous!” Paul edged his seat closer to hers, then got to work on the menu. Moon said he ordered: “A salad, chicken, fish, and two lobster tails on the side.” When Paul finished, he summoned two more lobster tails. After rounding off the meal with a devilish chocolate soufflé, Paul declared that he wanted to date Moon “exclusively,” then stepped outside to make a phone call. “A few minutes in, I had a funny feeling,” she said. He never came back.
posted by devrim (64 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
 
Even though it's so lightweight that it might blow away, I really enjoyed this and have bookmarked the writer's other pieces for the Beast. It's the least bloody true crime longform ever, which is actually a nice change for someone who loves true crime but tires quickly of the... crime.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 11:26 AM on August 13 [15 favorites]


From the article:

One afternoon Cass had an idea for a honeytrap. “We had a female officer create an online dating account,” he told me. “We had her go on Bumble and create a profile to see if she could lure him and save all the text messages... We wanted to see if Paul bites.” They planned to send the officer on a date with Gonzales, wearing a wire. They uploaded some photographs in the office and together they wrote her profile. She was in for a surprise.

Yeah, big surprise there....
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:26 AM on August 13 [8 favorites]


I wish there had been more examples of happy endings amongst his victims but this was otherwise a pretty satisfying read.
posted by poffin boffin at 11:28 AM on August 13 [3 favorites]


Because online dating isn't miserable enough. Thanks a lot, asshole.
posted by Capt. Renault at 11:29 AM on August 13 [11 favorites]


Yeah, big surprise there....

Then there's this:
Unable to make bail, set at $315,000, Gonzales remained in custody until his court date. “He told me stories about inside the jail,” Cass recalled, when they later crossed paths in a courthouse hallway. “He lived like a hero in there. He said, you know, inmates were high-fiving him, and... even some of the deputies.”
Poor, poor men, who see themselves as the victims of the dating scene so that they celebrate a skeezy dude who rips off women.
posted by filthy light thief at 11:33 AM on August 13 [51 favorites]


Yeah, I don't think of myself as a true crime person because "true crime" is usually shorthand for ghastly violence. But a scammer, a thief, a fraudulent dater...I will read every single one of those pieces.

It's encouraging that they were able to nab him, but also oddly depressing? The story just got viral enough that a dozen people took it seriously (including a cop), and then it all got sorted out pretty quickly. So many things will never get that level of (fairly minimal!) stranger engagement to get fixed.
posted by grandiloquiet at 11:37 AM on August 13 [4 favorites]


Also, if police think they have a problem getting women to report domestic crimes now, hearing that deputies high-fived the guy who scammed women on dates is not going to help.

Cass, why would you share that? First, to believe a habitual liar, and second, to publicly portray fellow police as cheering for the criminal?
posted by filthy light thief at 11:37 AM on August 13 [16 favorites]


"short-guy energy" is one hell of a phrase loaded with subtext
posted by GuyZero at 11:37 AM on August 13 [27 favorites]


It's strange to me that they mostly went for charges of extortion rather than fraud. Can any lawyers weigh in on that?
posted by showbiz_liz at 11:39 AM on August 13


I especially liked the part where the restaurant manager was like HEY I SAW YOU ON TV, ASSHOLE and then comped the lady's meal.
posted by poffin boffin at 11:41 AM on August 13 [58 favorites]


I mean, if I were going to defraud a date for a great meal, I'm not sure I'd pick Buca di Beppo.
posted by xingcat at 11:42 AM on August 13 [15 favorites]


"short-guy energy" is one hell of a phrase loaded with subtext

Yeah, I'm not a fan.
posted by grumpybear69 at 11:43 AM on August 13 [6 favorites]


A scammer, a hater, a fraudulent dater / skipped out the back after noshing his tater
posted by grumpybear69 at 11:44 AM on August 13 [19 favorites]


It's strange to me that they mostly went for charges of extortion rather than fraud.

Well, IANAL, but my guess is that it would be harder to prove fraud, since going on a date doesn't obligate one to pay for one's meal. Extortion was the better fit, though sadly neither was a fit in the eyes of the law (which is part of the problem.)
posted by NoxAeternum at 11:48 AM on August 13 [1 favorite]


"short-guy energy" is one hell of a phrase loaded with subtext

Yeah, I enjoyed it but also found the writing style kind of... weird. Like, it was interesting that the cop had a romance writing background and all, but the "casanova cop" framing and phrases like "game recognizes game" was bizarre. Part writing, part subject, I guess.

Anyways, agree that "crime capers" without ghastly violence are much more enjoyable.
posted by knownassociate at 11:49 AM on August 13 [5 favorites]


Last year a friend of a friend was telling us about her recent dating experiences, which among other shitty things involved two different guys dining and dashing on her, and I wondered how those guys could have so little respect for not only her but also themselves. How do you look yourself in the mirror after pulling grubby little scams like this...is the question I'd ask if I were naive enough to not understand that if there's one thing people are good at its internally justifying their own sins.
posted by The Card Cheat at 11:51 AM on August 13 [20 favorites]


In a perfect example of... *something*'s mirror, Reddit seems absolutely fixated on women, real or imagined, who only go on dates to get free food. And yet here in the real world...
posted by ominous_paws at 11:52 AM on August 13 [18 favorites]


In a perfect example of... *something*'s mirror, Reddit seems absolutely fixated on women, real or imagined, who only go on dates to get free food. And yet here in the real world...

a hallmark of conservative complaints is about free riders - people who get more out of the system than they put in. it's the classic conservative boogeyman. reddit misogynists are fundamentally small-c conservative at heart , insofar as they have hearts.
posted by GuyZero at 11:59 AM on August 13 [24 favorites]


the "casanova cop" framing and phrases like "game recognizes game" was bizarre

Yeah, it sort of accidentally came across like "it takes a total douchebag to hunt down a douchebag" even though I think the writer of the article thought Cass was a totally cool manly guy. Really enjoyed the article though--it was a fun read!
posted by capricorn at 12:01 PM on August 13 [1 favorite]


On May 21, Cass tracked down Gonzales’s ex-wife, an aspiring Instagram influencer who curates a food and fashion account.

Sigh.
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 12:05 PM on August 13 [13 favorites]


It's L.A., where I imagine actor/actress/ script writer is now replaced by Instagram influencer (because being an aspiring YouTuber is so 2017 ;) )
posted by filthy light thief at 12:14 PM on August 13 [2 favorites]


Some people argued that for decades women have done the same thing to men by expecting them to pick up the check. Scientists at the Azusa Pacific University examined the myth of the “foodie call”—finding that 23–33 percent of women had set up a date only for the purpose of getting a free meal.

A dine-and-dash situation is different. You didn't end the date! I mean, sometimes you might want to end a date early, but if you do so you don't leave the other person with the check. If this anecdotal 23-33 percent of women are looking for a meal, they're at least sitting there and going through the motions. And by motions, I don't mean a swift surreptitious move toward the exit.
posted by mikeh at 12:16 PM on August 13 [18 favorites]


"How do you look yourself in the mirror after pulling grubby little scams like this.."

It seems like he thought women 'deserved' it, after he was catfished himself. So he paid his misery forward to other women, rather than dealing with personal disappointment like a functioning adult.
posted by Capt. Renault at 12:29 PM on August 13 [8 favorites]


Reddit seems absolutely fixated on women, real or imagined, who only go on dates to get free food. And yet here in the real world...

I'm aware of this stereotype, but TBH I don't think in 30-some years of dating (off and on) I ever had this happen. Any number of dates where the pictures used on the profiles were, shall we say, "vintage" and more than a few dates where the person who showed up was less single than they initially made out to be... but not once do I recall a date where I felt like they were just trying to scam a free meal.

Happily I'm no longer having to deal with the dating scene, but my advice to anybody who's still enduring it - if you're doing online dating, meet for a drink, or coffee first. Don't book an entire meal with somebody you haven't met yet. It's awkward AF when you realize you never want to see someone again before the salads come and have to sit through the rest of the date...
posted by jzb at 12:30 PM on August 13 [15 favorites]


That just seems like a ridiculously huge amount of effort and work for a “free” dinner.
posted by The Gooch at 12:35 PM on August 13 [6 favorites]


To be fair, it sounds like he was eating all of his meals for the day in one sitting.
posted by mikeh at 12:37 PM on August 13 [6 favorites]


this reminds me a little bit of the "homeless heidi" subplot in high maintenance, but yeah if you gender-swap that scenario it goes from quirky-if-kind-of-scammy to scammy-and-kind-of-gross real quick.
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 12:50 PM on August 13


Reddit seems absolutely fixated on women, real or imagined, who only go on dates to get free food. And yet here in the real world...

One of the justifications to pay, like, shop girls so little in the early 20th c. was that they should be accompanied by a man and only working temporarily and therefore did not need money for, like, food. Women living in the boarding house districts of American cities openly, by societal expectation, were to be taken to dinner by men because they couldn't afford to survive otherwise. A young woman transplanted into the urban environment for work, living in boarding houses (listen, the book was specific) were expected to be dating for food and basically expected to put out in return (the raunchier newspaper cartoons were pretty clear on it).

So, sexists mad about living in the cage of patriarchy they built, once again.
posted by wellifyouinsist at 12:54 PM on August 13 [65 favorites]


Unable to make bail, set at $315,000, Gonzales remained in custody until his court date. “He told me stories about inside the jail,” Cass recalled, when they later crossed paths in a courthouse hallway. “He lived like a hero in there. He said, you know, inmates were high-fiving him, and... even some of the deputies.
Poor, poor men, who see themselves as the victims of the dating scene so that they celebrate a skeezy dude who rips off women.


On the one hand, I wouldn't be surprised at all to find out that this was true. On the other, the only evidence we have of this is Gonzales' word, and he's not the most reliable of narrators...
posted by joedan at 12:57 PM on August 13 [5 favorites]


The dine and dash dater. The hipster shoplifter. The “Rock Burglar” who smashed into buildings by hurling stones through windows. Apparently Pasadena is packed to the gills with third-tier supervillains.
posted by Naberius at 1:01 PM on August 13 [39 favorites]


The Glass Man Burglar, the Guitar Bandit, the Hipster Shoplifter, the Rock Burglar, and the Dine-and-Dash Dater...
Come to beautiful Pasadena, the petty criminal's paradise.
posted by Iris Gambol at 1:05 PM on August 13 [4 favorites]


Jinx, Nab.
posted by Iris Gambol at 1:05 PM on August 13 [1 favorite]


[Paul] said he was the CEO of the LA Fitness gym franchise. But as Moon handed her car keys to the valet, she saw her date arrive on foot. She wondered, did he not have a car?
Yet again, the crooks fail to do basic research. Walkin' in LA? Only a nobody walks in LA.
posted by Westringia F. at 1:06 PM on August 13 [7 favorites]


Poor, poor men, who see themselves as the victims of the dating scene so that they celebrate a skeezy dude who rips off women.
posted by filthy light thief


You might call them incels, in cells.
posted by Splunge at 1:16 PM on August 13 [22 favorites]


On the one hand, I wouldn't be surprised at all to find out that this was true. On the other, the only evidence we have of this is Gonzales' word, and he's not the most reliable of narrators...

It does come across as a little "and then everybody clapped". On the other hand, I imagine what is, in truth, a rather sad series of scams morphed in his retelling into a culinary version of Catch Me If You Can, and I can see that the tall tales of a conman might pass the time when you have nothing else to do.
posted by inire at 1:21 PM on August 13 [2 favorites]


>You might call them incels, in cells.
Incelsior!!
posted by onehalfjunco at 1:30 PM on August 13 [10 favorites]


Cass showed her his six-pack—six mugshots, not his washboard stomach.

Pulitzer material this is not. But entertaining? Yes!
posted by number9dream at 1:37 PM on August 13 [6 favorites]


That guy practically has little red flags sprinkled in his hair gel.
posted by loquacious at 1:45 PM on August 13 [8 favorites]


So turns out if you mostly break social norms instead of laws, you can get away with it for a long time! Who knew?
posted by rikschell at 1:51 PM on August 13 [1 favorite]


only if the difficulty slider is set to cishet white man
posted by poffin boffin at 2:01 PM on August 13 [39 favorites]


Two years later, in the spring of 2018, he was still at it, leaving Tina Martinez to pay for his filet mignon at Smitty’s Grill in Pasadena. Even when Gonzales was arrested, for a “snip-and-ditch”—he fled a barber’s shop with the smock still tied around his neck—police found no outstanding warrants. His dates were too ashamed to report his dining misdeeds. Had he created the perfect crime?

The problem with cons and frauds is the stigma attached to them - victims are often ashamed to admit they were taken in some way, believing that it reflects poorly on their intelligence or judgment. But the reason people get taken is that most anyone is susceptible in some way, shape or form.

As he nursed an off-duty pint of Irish lager, Cass told me that Gonzales was not just victimizing women, but “disrupting the internet dating economy.” He had to be stopped.

This was a weird take. Are offences against the "internet dating economy" in the California penal code or something?

Yeah, I don't think of myself as a true crime person because "true crime" is usually shorthand for ghastly violence. But a scammer, a thief, a fraudulent dater...I will read every single one of those pieces.

I'm endlessly fascinated by frauds and cons. The frustrating thing about them is in the outcome -- even if the perpetrator is caught and prosecuted, that economic or white-collar crime is often not taken nearly as seriously as crimes of violence, even if it's completely destroyed someone's life, wiped out their savings, etc.

The Australian's Who the Hell is Hamish is a good case in point (and a riveting listen).
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 2:03 PM on August 13 [10 favorites]


One of the justifications to pay, like, shop girls so little in the early 20th c. was that they should be accompanied by a man and only working temporarily and therefore did not need money for, like, food. Women living in the boarding house districts of American cities openly, by societal expectation, were to be taken to dinner by men because they couldn't afford to survive otherwise. A young woman transplanted into the urban environment for work, living in boarding houses (listen, the book was specific) were expected to be dating for food and basically expected to put out in return (the raunchier newspaper cartoons were pretty clear on it).

I mean, which is basically the Theodore Dreiser novel Sister Carrie. I'd like to see Cass try his hand at writing a book like that.

So, sexists mad about living in the cage of patriarchy they built, once again.

Yup!
posted by droplet at 2:14 PM on August 13 [4 favorites]


A couple of times, friends have told me about going on dates just for meals - but they were in bad shape financially and needed the food.

If men don't feel good about picking up the tab for a date - if they're worried about being taken advantage of - why not start with coffee or a drink or a walk, something that might not be Very Impressive but that gives you a chance to get to know someone? If you're only looking for women who will be Very Impressed that you're buying and therefore more likely to put out (so you don't want to suggest something cheap) but you're also really worried about how to prevent women from dating you for food, you're kind of the villain in the piece.
posted by Frowner at 2:18 PM on August 13 [16 favorites]


It seems like he thought women 'deserved' it, after he was catfished himself. So he paid his misery forward to other women, rather than dealing with personal disappointment like a functioning adult.
posted by Capt. Renault


Miss Mister Havisham, table for two?
posted by Tess of the d'Urkelvilles at 2:34 PM on August 13 [5 favorites]


That guy practically has little red flags sprinkled in his hair gel.

Hair gel is the red flag.
posted by spitbull at 2:40 PM on August 13 [10 favorites]


Justice is a dish best served cold
posted by Ahmad Khani at 3:02 PM on August 13 [1 favorite]


I love my weird little town.
posted by drewbage1847 at 3:09 PM on August 13 [2 favorites]


As he nursed an off-duty pint of Irish lager

This made me imagine active-duty pints that wear adorable tiny badges.
posted by Sangermaine at 3:28 PM on August 13 [49 favorites]


Scientists at the Azusa Pacific University

Azusa Pacific University and Cuc...amonga Community College
posted by The Underpants Monster at 4:00 PM on August 13 [2 favorites]


So, I genuinely don't understand something. I think this guy is a major scumbag, and I'm glad he ended up doing jail time for this, but why was he was being held on $315,000 in bail for dining and dashing on what according to the article seemed to be less than $2500 or so in receipts?
posted by I EAT TAPAS at 4:53 PM on August 13 [5 favorites]


Presumably the high bail amount was linked to a) the charges, "seven felony counts of extortion, two felony counts of attempted extortion, and one felony count of grand theft" plus "two misdemeanor counts of defrauding an innkeeper, and petty theft" for a "possible maximum penalty of 13 years in prison" and b) maybe the allegation that he repeatedly evaded his responsibility to pay up, probably didn't make the judge think he was very likely to show up.

(Admittedly overcharging and unproven allegations aren't really great reasons for high bail.)
posted by Jahaza at 5:16 PM on August 13 [2 favorites]


“I wish I could take care of your bill,” she sobbed. “I’m so sorry.” But Moon had no tears to cry. She paid the $250 bill and marched out, imagining the cost of the meal in emergency room hours.
This is something I've never thought of before but if two people sit down at a table in a restaurant are they automatically jointly liable for the bill? It seems to me Moon could have paid her half and told the restaurant to chase after Gonzales for his portion.
posted by Mitheral at 7:24 PM on August 13 [5 favorites]


This probably depends on jurisdiction, but I think in NYC the people on a single bill are jointly and severally responsible for the entire bill, meaning the restaurant can ask you to pay the entire thing and leave it to you to recover your losses from your tablemates.
posted by meaty shoe puppet at 8:08 PM on August 13 [5 favorites]


Reddit seems absolutely fixated on women, real or imagined, who only go on dates to get free food. And yet here in the real world...

Not just Reddit either. But also I think maybe it's something you can only really believe if you're still thinking about people as vending machines on some level.

They're also wrong about it being men doing it for women, men and women both buy me drinks, yes I'm bi but like I don't normally leap to "they want to get in my pants" - if someone's high on the hog and they're keen to keep drinking with and talking to you they'll buy drinks, if you're nice to bartenders they won't pour the other half of a shandy down the drain, they might want to chat instead.

Strangers are almost more likely to at least offer to buy drinks or the like than my friends are, I find. I shared beer with a woman this afternoon and she insisted on buying and sharing a kebab box.

It's always going to be much harder for some than others, I'm sure, but I think maybe they're not coming at people with the right attitude, to put it mildly.
posted by Acid Communist at 3:22 AM on August 14 [2 favorites]


defrauding an innkeeper

I love near-fossil-but-still-active legal phrases like this. They always sound like "angering a potion-seller" to me.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 4:25 AM on August 14 [26 favorites]


I get it; it's basically, "I can prove to myself I've still got it" -- and let's be real, any man who's ever used a dating site must be completely astonished just at the sheer number of first dates he was able to get -- "and then bail before they can find out I've got nothing to offer. Plus, I get a free meal!" It's horrible. Do I understand it? Sure, man, just call me the Will Graham of this bullshit. Of course I understand it! I understand why it fascinated Cass, too.

I'm seconding that the tone of the article is weird in many places. That "short guy energy" thing is a little revealing, I think.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 4:52 AM on August 14


Yeah, it's an interesting story and the psychology of this guy is bonkers (or not, Cf. "patriarchy") but the whole time I wondered if the writer was on a dare to sneak as many Little Lytton entries as possible into one story. The structure of that six-pack line in particular is a real Little Lytton staple by now.
posted by range at 5:58 AM on August 14


defrauding an innkeeper

I love near-fossil-but-still-active legal phrases like this. They always sound like "angering a potion-seller" to me.
I picture a Benjamin Franklin-esque judge with a look of deep disapproval.

(Other archaic legal language I love: dram shop laws, which make businesses or hosts who serve liquor to someone who is clearly intoxicated liable for any harm caused by that person. "Dram" – "from the Greek word 'drachme,' meaning 'handful,' " per Merriam-Webster – is an eighth of an ounce as a liquid measure and 1/16th of an ounce as a unit of weight.)
posted by virago at 8:41 AM on August 14 [1 favorite]


I get it; it's basically, "I can prove to myself I've still got it" -- and let's be real, any man who's ever used a dating site must be completely astonished just at the sheer number of first dates he was able to get

This is exactly what I was getting at with my initial comment here as to the ridiculous amount of effort this guy went through just to eat some food without paying. It sounds like there were about 8 women who were the victims here (although I suppose it is very likely there were more who didn’t want to come forward); I can’t help but wonder if there were more attempts on his end who just never agreed to a first date.
posted by The Gooch at 9:05 AM on August 14 [1 favorite]


Like the opening Steve Martin scene of "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels"? "Do you know how it feels to take a woman for 20 bucks?"
posted by Autumnheart at 9:30 AM on August 14 [1 favorite]


any man who's ever used a dating site must be completely astonished just at the sheer number of first dates he was able to get

I'm not too surprised. It's difficult to get dates with women that you're personally into, while using an honest profile, with limited free time to spend on dating sites, but he wasn't operating under normal functional necessities.
posted by anonymisc at 9:02 PM on August 14 [1 favorite]


OK, I *swear* there was just another true-crime article in which one of the police officers also wrote romance novels...
posted by Charity Garfein at 2:33 AM on August 15 [1 favorite]


I think in NYC the people on a single bill are jointly and severally responsible for the entire bill, meaning the restaurant can ask you to pay the entire thing and leave it to you to recover your losses from your tablemates.

Friends and I were discussing this, and we thought exactly what Mitheral said- why didn't the women pay for their own order, and be done with it? What power does the restaurant have? They can "ask," but other than that, what? Is such an unspoken contract put in place every time two or more people simply sit down at a restaurant table at the same time?
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 4:15 AM on August 17


What power does the restaurant have? They can "ask," but other than that, what?

In practice, if you put down money for your order and started walking out the door, they would not restrain you, nor would they trouble themselves to press charges. (Assuming they even knew your name.) They might refuse to serve you again, if they recognized you next time.

On the other hand, they might make your waiter pay the difference.

(There are some complicated rules about how they can do it. I think it's something like, they can only hold back the waiter's wages, not confiscate the waiter's tips, and the waiter still has to average at least the non-tipped minimum wage including tips at the end of the day.

I don't really know the rules because it's pretty common to ignore them. You have basically no recourse if you refuse to pay and then mysteriously they start only scheduling you for weekday afternoons.)

Now, should you consider yourself responsible for what the restaurant does to its waiters? I would say no, but I definitely know people who would say, "Yes, and meaty shoe puppet is a bad person." :-/

Is such an unspoken contract put in place every time two or more people simply sit down at a restaurant table at the same time?

Yeah, sorry. I said table-mates but that's not really right. I think it's only among people in your own party (as in, "How many in your party?").

In informal situations where they may seat multiple parties at the same table, you wouldn't be responsible for the bills of your assigned tablemates.
posted by meaty shoe puppet at 6:08 AM on August 17


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