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Woman’s Bizarre Offer of Heaven in Payment for Breakfast Bill Leads to Arrest of 78-Year-Old, Church Protests

A Florida woman and her mother have been accused of skipping out on their restaurant bill after a bizarre incident where the cashier was literally given a choice between heaven and hell.

44-year-old Ruthena Lewis dined at a Winter Haven, Florida restaurant with her elderly mother, Willie ‘Mother’ Lewis, in January. After taking her mother to the car, she returned to pay for the meal, but her credit card was denied. When the cashier, Crystal Henson, tried again, Lewis allegedly held the cancel button down on the credit card machine and made Henson a bizarre offer.

“(Ruthena Lewis) stated to (Henson) that if she gave them the meal for free she would go to heaven. If she ran the credit card again, she would go to hell,” according to the official police report.

Lewis then handed the cashier a business card of someone who she said would settle the bill, her pastor, Bishop Joseph Lewis of the Church of God the Bible Way, and left.

Shortly thereafter, the police, tracking the women down with the license plate jotted down by a waitress, arrested Ruthena and her 78-year-old mother, who was in the car when the card was declined.

After hearing about the arrest, Bishop Lewis, the pastor named on the card, stepped in and offered to pay the bill for the mother and daughter duo. The pastor then advised police that since he had paid, the owner of the restaurant George Paragios had agreed to drop charges on both women.

When the police followed up with Paragios, however, he learned that the restaurant owner had no plans to drop the charges and planned to continue proceeding on both women.

“He advised that he wanted to continue with the charges, and refused to sign the waiver,” the follow-up report reads.

“This woman is a pillar in the community she lives in,” Bishop Lewis said of the Willie, the 78-year-old charged along with her daughter during Wednesday’s protest in front of the restaurant where the women dined. “They should not have treated her that way.”

Bishop Lewis and his congregants vowed to protest the restaurant again if charges were not dropped against the women who skipped out on paying their bill. Both women, who do not deny that they dined and dashed are facing misdemeanor charges and are due to appear in court in early March.

While Paragios declined further comment, one of his staffers made it clear that the restaurant feels the women should be charged.

“The law is the law whether you’re 25 years old or 85 years old,” the waitress said, adding that she believes the women planned all along to cause a scene and not pay their bill.                                                   


About the author

Tamar is a New York based freelance writer and photographer whose work has appeared in over 15 publications. You can catch her work regularly on Issue Hawk, Latest, Jspace, and MediaGlobal.

  • Kathy Mayo

    Good for this restaurant owner! Don’t back down to these cretins, who believe they’re above the law!

  • pauletteb

    “Pillars of the community” don’t scam waitresses and run out on their restaurant bill. The fact that the woman hit the cancel button when the waitress tried to rescan the card tells me that she knew the sale wouldn’t be authorized. Good for the restaurant owner!

  • Patrick Nance

    It is called theft and it does not matter if you are “a pillar of the community”. Don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time… for the congregation to boycott is blaming the wrong person, even if the Pastor did pay. Can he pay for everyone if they decide to do this? Sounds like it’s time for a little “come to Jesus” chat with the two women involved…