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Police Hunt Woman Who Scams Restaurants by Pretending to Choke on Food

More than 120 restaurants may have been affected

The suspect at a restaurant
Facebook (Tony Tannous)

Quebec police are on the hunt for a woman suspected of stealing hundreds of dollars of free meals from at least 120 restaurants across a swathe of land from Quebec City through to Granby in recent weeks.

According to Le Journal de Québec, the realization that the same woman might be behind a string of thefts came after a Quebec City restaurateur put the suspect’s face on social media. Owner of La Galette Libanaise Tony Tannous says the woman visited one of his restaurants Saturday, and after publishing surveillance footage, he was deluged with calls from other restaurateurs who said they had dealt with the same woman.

The woman reportedly posed as a customer who had ordered take-out from the restaurants — she allegedly came into the restaurants claiming to have choked on a piece of plastic wrap in her (non-existent) meal, and demanded a full refund for the food she claimed to have purchased. In some cases, she allegedly said that Sûreté du Québec officers who happened to be on hand had to perform the Heimlich maneuver to save her.

Donc voici une meilleur image / video de la dame qui s'amuse a profiter du bon service de du bon des gens, elle se pré...

Posted by Tony Tannous on Sunday, October 22, 2017

According to Le Journal de Québec, she would not accept offers of free food or replacement meals — only cash. She allegedly told the restaurants that she could not produce a receipt because she had vomited on it while choking.

Tannous told Le Journal that she was “manipulative” and “intimated one of his employees”, and threatened to write damaging reviews of his restaurant on social media if she was not compensated. Marc-Antoine Beauchesne, owner of Ste-Foy Mexican restaurant Zolé, reported the same thing, saying he paid out around $40 in order to “buy some peace”.

Le Journal reports that from Tuesday through to Saturday the woman was refunded amounts from $35 to $150 for non-existent bills at restaurants in Quebec City, Thetford Mines, Lévis, Beauce, and Victoriaville.

On Tuesday afternoon, Quebec City police announced that they had identified the woman but did not release a name, noting that they had only spoken to one restaurateur so far. Tannous says he has sent report forms to at least 120 restaurants who contacted him since he posted on social media on Sunday.