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Date of Issue: December 08, 2005

Restaurant scam investigation nets remorseful culprit

Rosemarie Le Donne has admitted to and apologized for sending some 12 letters to local restaurants asking for "some sort of restitution" after having her own "unpleasant experience" in what has been acknowledged as a scam to attempt to gain free meals.

Bradenton Beach Police Det. Sgt. Lenard Diaz interviewed Le Donne last week and received a signed letter of apology for her actions. Gift certificates or checks she received from restaurateurs asking for "restitution" after she wrote and complained that she and a companion became ill after a bogus dining experience were destroyed.

"Her statement was kind of an apology," Diaz said, "and although the intent to defraud might have been there, she seemed sincere in her apology."

He said the matter was more civil than criminal, and he did not intend to bring the matter to the state attorney’s office for further action.

Le Donne’s statement to Bradenton Beach reads:

"A couple of weeks ago, out of boredom, I stupidly sent erroneous letters to approximately 12 local restaurants saying that I had gotten ill after visiting them. The first gift certificate came and at first I was happy, then I received a copy of an e-mail that was circulated among local restaurant owners. The e-mail was a warning about me. With this e-mail was a cover letter from the Sun House Restaurant [in Bradenton Beach] and at the bottom on the letter was ‘Shame on you’ which brought me to the realization that what I had done was terrible and very wrong.

"The reason I did this to begin with is that unfortunately I did become ill in a restaurant in New York approximately eight years ago and I was compensated with a gift certificate. At this time in my life, with money being very tight and with the holidays approaching, I thought I would try this again, and got carried away. I know this was wrong, stupid and downright horrible and I am very ashamed for what I did.

"All gift cards have already been destroyed and I will never ever do something so stupid again."

Diaz offered the following words of advise to restaurateurs - and Island businesses - on potential fraudulent practices.

"It would be wise of managers to be aware of possible frauds that they might encounter. This case turned out to be an embarrassing mistake for her, which she deeply regrets, but there are others that actually have the intent of depriving restaurants or resorts of their money or property by fraudulent means.

"We are a small community, where word of mouth travels fast and is very successful when suspicious activities arise and the local police department is made aware of these activities. I am always willing to look into any suspicious actions that would assist businesses so that the Bradenton Beach Police Department can serve and protect the citizens."

The incident began in early November, when Island restaurants began to receive identical letters from "L. Rose" with a Bradenton address explaining of becoming ill after eating at the establishment.

The letter requested that the restaurant "make some sort of restitution to us for this unfortunate event so that we can once again enjoy and praise your establishment."

Diaz said that the majority of the restaurants that received the bogus letter had either sent or were intending to send a gift certificate to La Donne - or "L. Rose."