RIVERSIDE (CBSLA.com) — Riverside police are accusing a con artist of bilking dozens of mom-and-pop stores out of tens of thousands of dollars.
They said Rodolfo DeHoyos used the Americans with Disabilities Act to scare the owners and get them to turn over lots of cash.READ MORE: One Of The World's Largest Homes Is About To Go Up For Sale In Bel Air
CBS2’s Tom Wait was in the courtroom when the judge rejected DeHoyos’ lawyer’s plea for a lower bail.
Judge Helios Hernanzez said: “Assuming all these things are true, there is that danger to the public. Bail set at $1 million.”
Authorities said DeHoyos would pose as an inspector and show up at local restaurants and would accuse them of violating the disabilities act. He would then allegedly trick them into paying him thousands of dollars.
“Interestingly, I think, many of the victims — not exclusively — but many of the businesses, what we would call mom-and-pop shops, many of them owned by immigrant families who might not be that familiar with our laws,” said Riverside Police Chief Sergio Diaz.
Police said DeHoyos is not disabled. The fact he is able-bodied and arrived in court in a wheelchair also raised eyebrows in Thursday. His lawyer said he was injured while in custody.
“It’s sickening,” says Roseanna Brungardt.READ MORE: Drone Drops Drugs Into Orange County Jail Courtyard
She said her stomach turns when she thinks about what DeHoyos allegedly did to her family. She owns Antone’s Restaurant in Riverside.
Brungardt said DeHoyos sent two men to her restaurant in an attempt to extort $9,000 from her and her husband.
After being rebuffed, she said DeHoyos called again.
“He said to my husband, ‘Well, what can you guys pay?'” she said. “Oh, so now it’s ‘Let’s Make a Deal.’ ”
DeHoyos’ attorney tried to play down the fact his client allegedly demanded people give him cash.
“All the letters that he sent,” said Reza Williams, the lawyer, “said this was a good faith letter to inform them that there was a violation. There was no fear involved, there was no coercion, there were no threats.”
Police now believe he extorted at least 78 business owners and believe he came away with more than $140,000 and believe that number will grow.MORE NEWS: Beach Erosion Suspends All Metrolink, Amtrak Service Between OC, San Diego
If he’s convicted on all counts, DeHoyo could get sentenced to 80 years in prison.