A former employee of a local, high-priced dating service, Dallas Singles, told NBC 5 Investigates Consumer Unit some individuals with a criminal past are allowed to be members.
While the service is billed as a professional matchmaking service for upscale singles, the owner said in some circumstances members can have a criminal record. However, he insisted no member has ever been hurt or harmed.
Stephanie Gardella said she was hired as a relationship counselor at Dallas Singles in January of 2012. The single mother first thought it was the perfect job.
“I’m such a helper,” she said, adding she was able to help connect people looking for love with potential matches.
But soon after she started, she said she noticed several red flags like giving free or discounted memberships to certain clients while others would pay thousands of dollars.
“We would give beautiful, young women free memberships,” Gardella said.
She also recalled the time a potential member told her he just got out of prison for theft. She said she brought this to the attention of her supervisor but was instructed to sign him up anyway.
On its website, the company promises to perform “a thorough background screening including a criminal history check on every client.”
But Gardella told NBC5 Investigates Consumer Unit if potential members were willing to pay thousands to join, little else mattered.
“We were supposed to have them sold in 90 minutes,” Gardella said.
A Dallas Singles client also told NBC 5 a background check she did on her own showed one of her potential suitors had a criminal past.
The company’s owner, Ted Law, who, on repeated occasions declined to speak with NBC 5 on camera, insisted his company does do background checks. But he also said “non-violent felons” can be members. He said no client has ever been harmed or would have to go on a date with someone he or she found to be objectionable.
Law called Gardella a “liar,” and said she was never told to sign up a felon.
However, he confirmed non-violent felons had bought memberships and some members, like young attractive women and older men, would get complimentary memberships.
Ultimately, Gardella was fired after a few short months of working at Dallas Singles.
“She was let go because she refused to do things our way,” Law said.
Gardella insisted she didn’t have a vendetta against Dallas Singles and she did not speak with NBC 5 because she was fired.
“The best thing I ever did was to leave that place,” Gardella said. “What they’re doing is wrong. It’s so wrong.”
Former client Carol Carrillo first came to NBC5 Investigates Consumer Unit after she said the service failed her and her one and only date was a disaster.
She said getting a refund for the $2,200 she spent on the service was difficult at best. After months of unanswered phone calls and certified letters she contacted NBC 5. Minutes after NBC called the company, Law reached out to Carrillo and promised to give her all her money back.
But the paperwork she received said her refund was conditional. She had to agree “not to disparage Dallas Singles, Fort Worth Singles or Singles International, or its affiliates, clients or personnel in any way in the future.”
“I’d rather lose all my money than not fight these people. They haven’t given me any of what was promised,” Carrillo said.
Ultimately, Carrillo said she did get refund after contacting her credit card company and filing a dispute through the credit card.
However, Law insisted Carrillo “didn’t give the service a chance.” He also said the company has given thousands of dollars in refunds to unhappy members. And he said his business has led to many happy, long-term couples.
Ariel Osterreicher, 23, said he would like to be one of those success stories. He signed up with Dallas Singles after having little luck with online dating.
“I’m a shy person,” said the college student who lives modestly.
He said his mother spent $4,500 for the service, but in the seven months since signing up he has had no dates.
“It’s just a giant chess game and I just fell into the trap,” he said.
His complaint echoed those of a 2012 class action lawsuit. It was filed against Ted Law and his wife, Rachel, and related to their former company, another matchmaking service. Plaintiffs claimed they were deceptive, did not make promised matches and set pricing “based solely on a potential customer’s ability to pay.”
Law called the allegations “ridiculous.” But he said he settled the suit.
As for Osterreicher, Law said he is working with him to find a perfect match, but he so far, he’s still waiting for his first date.