A dine-and-dash” dater, Paul Guadalupe Gonzales, is standing trial for allegedly forcing women he took on a string of first dates to pay for their expensive meals by sneaking out of upscale restaurants immediately he finished eating.
Police said Gonzales ordered expensive wines, steaks, lobster and desserts during more than a dozen dates in which he ran away without paying.
According to prosecutors, while his dates were generally forced to pick up the bill, two restaurants took pity on the women and did not charge them.
The man from Los Angeles, faces 10 counts of extortion, fraud, and petty theft against no fewer than 10 women over the past two years.
The 45-year-old would reportedly chat to women online, offering to take them to restaurants across the city, before vanishing without a word after consuming large amounts of food and alcohol.
Appearing in court in Pasadena for his preliminary hearing, Gonzales listened as women testified about their experiences dating the alleged tab-skipper.
A single mother, Martha Barba said she was due to meet Gonzales at a Chipotle outlet in July 2016, before he convinced her into a meal close by at an upscale eatery called Houston’s.
“I didn’t want to go. He didn’t look like his pictures. I wasn’t attracted to him,” Barba said, who however agreed to go to be “nice”, according to NY Daily News.
“He kept saying, ‘I got you. Order whatever you want. It’s on me. Don’t worry about it’,” she said, adding that “He ordered steak, wine, salad, just whatever you could order.”
She continued that Gonzales would at a point leave to take a call, insinuating she should order dessert while he stepped away to talk. He allegedly never came back, forcing Ms Barba to pay the $120 (£92) bill.
“I felt embarrassed and didn’t want to say anything… I felt humiliated,” Barba told the court, lamenting that she had to use her rent money to cover the cost.
Another woman, Yolanda Lora, told the newspaper she accepted an invite from Gonzales to a sushi restaurant in West Hollywood last year.
“I remember he was talking really fast and eating really fast and then said his youngest son was calling him,” Lora said, claiming that Gonzales ordered two glasses of wine within 15 minutes of each other.
After getting up, she alleges he never returned.
“What kind of monster does this? I was so embarrassed. I’m not an insecure woman, but it made me feel very insecure,” Lora said, saying “I’m just glad he got caught. I don’t want any other women to have to go through that.”