The escapades of Los Angeles’s notorious, felonious dine-and-dash dater are well documented. Since 2016, Paul Gonzales found women on dating apps, set up dates at restaurants, then abandoned his victims while leaving them with the bill. After being convicted of the crimes in November, Gonzales surrendered on Monday to serve a 120-day jail sentence in Pasadena. But with 22 victims revealed over many months, from Long Beach to the San Fernando Valley, how exactly did law enforcement finally catch up to him?
Eater spoke with Pasadena Police Detective Victor Cass about the investigation. Cass was assigned to follow up on an anonymous tip last April, where a random customer at the Pasadena Buca di Beppo observed a man skip out on a bill while on a date, leaving the woman to pay. He discovered that all local law enforcement were were largely unaware of Gonzales’ pattern.
Cass tracked down the restaurant victim, who then positively identified Gonzales. He also discovered Gonzales was responsible for leaving two area hair salons without paying, in what Cass describes colorfully as a “snip and ditch.” In a similar timeframe Gonzales also left dates behind at Smitty’s, Mercado, and Houstons in Pasadena, as well as the iconic Tam O’ Shanter, and BJ’s Restaurant & Brewhouse in Long Beach.
With a positive ID in hand, what ensued was a cat-and-mouse game of Cass traversing throughout Southern California with the police on Gonzales’ heels. Officers were able to obtain a phone warrant, nail down dates, times, and incidents, and roll it up into report after report. Cass found that Gonzales had largely been living both on the streets and couch surfing, which is why he proved challenging to locate.
This whole time, another problem presented itself. What would be the charge for Gonzales skipping out on the bill? Cass worked with Pasadena’s Deputy District Attorney to attempt to pin extortion on the dasher, mostly because he knowingly forced the women to pay for the expensive meals. The charge led to an arrest warrant.
“The one thing they all had in common was the feeling of being humiliated,” says Cass. “Being skipped out on in front of people, then having to pay the bill. Because of the embarrassment, they were reluctant to talk to police. They also had this fear (Gonzales) would never see the inside of a courtroom or a jail cell.”
As luck would have it, while patrolling on August 25, Cass spotted Gonzales selling counterfeit Lakers t-shirts in Old Pasadena and took him into custody. Cass describes Gonzales as so confident in his scam that he never thought he’d get arrested for it, and in fact didn’t even know that he was wanted by police. According to Cass, “Gonzales wanted to eat a certain way to make him feel better.”
By September 18, Cass located an additional nine dine-and-dash victims. The judge didn’t agree with the Deputy District Attorney on the extortion charges, but Gonzales ultimately pled guilty to four misdemeanor counts and must stay at least 100 yards away from five restaurants, perform community service, and pay $240 in restitution to two victims. He’s also barred from dating sites PlentyofFish and Bumble. Gonzales will sit in a Pasadena jail cell until April 2019, and officer Cass is back out on patrol.