Restaurant owner Marisol Simoes guilty of libel; created fake sex site profile of customer who gave bad review

Jordana Divon
Contributing Writer
Shine On

Scrolling through online restaurant reviews can often be the great decision maker.

Because if it boils down to two restaurants you've never tried before, sometimes the presence of one too many bits of negative feedback in one place can propel you straight into the dining room of the other.

That's why conscientious owners tend to be a fixed presence on their own Yelp or Urbanspoon pages. They read every comment, often responding to less-than-positive reviews with apologies, explanations and invitations to give their service or food another shot.

But as the Ottawa Citizen reports, one restaurant owner took things to the other extreme.

A pair of bad online reviews against Mambo Nuevo Latino restaurant resulted in a two-year harassment campaign by owner Marisol Simoes.

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On Thursday, Simoes was convicted of defamatory libel against the reviewer, Elayna Katz. According to the charges, Simoes was accused of setting up a lewd dating profile and sending sexually explicit emails to Katz's bosses under a fake Gmail addresses in Katz's name.

"I am open to anything -- couples, threesomes and group sex," reads the e-mail "signed" by Katz and sent to her 75 bosses and co-workers at the Federation of Canadian Municipalities.

"Am especially into transsexuals and transgenders (being one myself). I am ... a tiger in the bedroom. Please message me back if you are interested in a good time!"

Simoes was also found guilty of pulling Katz's wedding photo from another website and setting up a lascivious profile with similar messaging to the email on the "men seeking men" section of a kinky dating site.

The trouble started in May 2009, when Katz posted an unflattering review of Mambo on Restaurant Thing.

In her review, Katz complained about the slow service, the waitress' poor attitude, and the appearance of olives on her main course after she had explained to her server that she couldn't eat them.

During the court rial, Katz admitted she had tried to repeatedly contact Simoes to get her to acknowledge her complaint. When Simoes failed to respond, Katz penned her commentary.

The Toronto Sun writes that shortly after she posted her review, Katz discovered a cavalcade of other fake posts on the restaurant's page using her name. Some posts attacked the Ottawa diner, calling her "crazy," and included Katz's personal details, like her work phone number and address.

Katz contacted Restaurant Thing and demanded that they remove the offending posts. The website site complied, shutting down review pages for Mambo and Simoes' other restaurant, Kinki.

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Site administrators also published a letter they received from Simoes, in which she accuses Katz of writing all the posts under her name and threatens a lawsuit against Restaurant Thing.

"I have been recently fighting back to prove a point to her and to hopefully scare her off, and you guys turn around and take away my postings of defence and leave her postings of pure lies and malintent!" Simoes writes in her message.

Sentencing is scheduled for Nov. 8.

Post-verdict, Katz sends a message to all restaurant owners.

"When you're in the business of owning a restaurant and serving the public, people have a right to express their opinions," she says.

And without even having to say a word, her ordeal sends a message to all restaurant reviewers. Be careful what you post online.