Local restaurant owner is latest victim in SDG&E scam

Embargo Grill owner scammed out of nearly $1,000

SAN DIEGO - Another local business owner contacted 10News after he says he was scammed by someone posing as a representative from San Diego Gas & Electric.

Embargo Grill is starting to gain popularity for its Latin-Caribbean cuisine. It is a local eatery near Point Loma that has been open now for a little more than three months.

Business owner Hudi Eshel tells 10News that money has been tight, and now this.

"We should have known better," he said. "We should have known."

It all started with a phone call on Dec. 27.   

"The guy says, 'This is SDG&E, you are behind on your bill,' then 'if you don't pay us right now we're going to come and turn off your electricity and turn off your gas,'" said Eshel.

As a business owner who needs gas and electricity to serve his customers, Eshel did what he thought he had to do. He withdrew almost $1,000 from his business bank account. As instructed, he bought two Green Dot Money Paks, for just under $960 cash.

"I figured OK, we paid the bill, we'll be fine," he said.

After all, his cellphone read that he was called by SDG&E, so he had no reason to think it was not the utility.

Yet, Eshel did not realize he was scammed until exactly one week later when a man came to the restaurant in an SDG&E uniform, complete with a work ID.

"He said, 'I came here to tell you that if you don't pay, we're going to disconnect.' I said, 'I paid you in cash last week. What are you talking about?'" said Eshel.

He says he still does not know if that man was a real SDG&E employee.

"I feel stupid, but I mean again, if I can help one business in town avoid this scam," said Eshel. 

He had this message for others: "Don't pay anybody cash."

It is a mistake that he says he will never make again.

10News contacted SDG&E about this latest victim. A spokesperson told 10News, "SDG&E does not proactively contact customers to ask for credit card information over the phone."

They also said they are working with law enforcement and are offering its customers tips to prevent future victims.

Eshel says the utility needs to do more to warn San Diegans about this scam.

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