Marjorie Moon's date with Paul Guadalupe Gonzales at a swanky restaurant in Los Angeles in 2016 was going fine. That is, until he disappeared.
Gonzales was charming at first, if a little fawning, Moon said.
She met him online through the dating site Plenty of Fish and hit it off, swapping pictures of their kids and sharing their appreciation for good food.
On their first date, she realised he wasn't kidding: Gonzales ordered two entrees — a chicken dish and four lobster tails, she said. He ordered expensive wine and then a soufflé for dessert.
And then, he told her he had to go make a phone call. Moon thought he was on the call for a long time and asked her waiter if he had he seen her date.
Yes, the waiter said. Her date left.
"I couldn't believe it," Moon told the Washington Post. "I just handed [the waiter] my credit card and said, 'I just want to go home' — US$250 later, I was out the door."
Moon is one of at least eight known women who allegedly ended up footing the bill after police say Gonzales, 45, invited them out to dinner via online dating then ditched them before the meal was over, the Los Angeles District Attorney's Office said.
Gonzales, known as the "serial dine-and-dasher" in local media, was arrested this week on 10 charges in connection with his alleged awful dating etiquette between May 2016 and April 2018. In addition to the eight women, two restaurants are also listed as victims because they picked up the tab.
Gonzales has pleaded not guilty to seven counts of extortion, two counts of attempted extortion and one count of grand theft, accused of cheating his dates out of more than US$950. He faces a maximum penalty of 13 years in prison, the district attorney's office said.
"I'm just shocked this thing went as far as it did," said Moon, since happily engaged. "I never thought my date would turn into news like this."
It was always the same pattern for Gonzales, according to police: a lavish, expensive meal, followed by an excuse to leave the table and, ultimately, disappear.
Sometimes, his aunt was really sick, CBS Los Angeles reported. Sometimes, he left his phone charger in his car and really needed to go and get it. Sometimes, he had to go to the bathroom.
Diane Guilmette, the first woman to come forward to CBS, said she met Gonzales on Plenty of Fish and he took her out to Morton's Steakhouse in downtown Los Angeles. He ordered an appetiser, wine, steak, a couple of sides, "really enjoying himself," Guilmette told the station.
"When we got near to the end of the meal, not quite finished," she said, "he said he had to go make a phone call." Instead, he left her with a US$163 tab, she said.
Over the next few months, the stories kept coming until eventually CBS's headlines simply said, "Serial Dine-And-Dash Dater Strikes Again."
"All of a sudden, he's all, 'Oh, my phone's dying and I'm waiting on a call from my mom about my aunt. I'm going to go to the car to get my charger,'" one of the women told CBS in May. "My first comment to him when he got up was, 'Oh, what, you're not coming back?'"
She soon realised he would not return. Her tab was US$130.
According to the Los Angeles District Attorney's Office, Gonzales is also suspected of skipping out on the bill at a hair salon. He was caught on video leaving the salon with wet dye still in his hair, still wearing the salon's smock, CBS reported in 2016. He reportedly said he had to get his iPad from his car.