In March, the owners of Antone’s Italian Restaurant said, two men took pictures outside before coming inside and handing over some papers.
The men said there were some concerns that the business wasn’t meeting its requirements for the Americans With Disabilities Act.
"The papers said that there were some violations on there that the ADA was concerned with," said owner Roseanne Brungardt.
The owners, though, got suspicious when someone called later demanding $9,000 to not file a lawsuit over the alleged violations.
"We said no. I don't think so," Roseanne said.
Unfortunately, Riverside police said at least 78 other small business owners took the bait.
"We believe that coverage of this case will identify more victims," Chief Sergio Diaz said Thursday.
Thursday morning, investigators announced the arrest of Rodolfo de Hoyos, 55, who is accused of extorting money by threatening lawsuits through his organization, called ADA Advocates and Consulting.
"De Hoyos has received at least $140,000 in payments or settlements from various businesses within our city and county," said Det. Brian Money.
Investigators say de Hoyos claimed to be disabled, but when they searched his two-story home in Wildomar, they found no evidence of it.
"No walkers, no wheelchairs, nothing at all," Money said.
Instead, investigators say they found two luxury cars parked out front.
"We believe all financed by this sort of extortion," Money said.
The deception angers Sarah Willis, whose daughter is confined to a wheelchair.
"Then when you have someone coming in violating the trust of people and giving the wrong impression of the disabled, you're just adding another roadblock for us."
De Hoyos faces 90 felony changes, including grand theft and extortion.
Top news of the day
He is slated to be arraigned June 12.