BRIDGEWATER, N.J. -- A restaurant at the center of a firestorm over an anti-gay note supposedly left on a waitress' check said Tuesday it will review computer records and security cameras to determine whether the incident was a hoax.
The veracity of what Gallop Asian Bistro waitress Dayna Morales first said two weeks ago was thrown into doubt Monday when a husband and wife came forward to claim that the check they saw on the news looked like theirs. The problem, they said, was that they indeed had left Morales a tip and they never left her any message.
The couple defended themselves on WNBC-TV, which did not identify the family by name or show their faces.
On Tuesday, former colleagues and friends of Morales, 22, formerly of Stony Point, N.Y., say she has a reputation for lying.
Morales has been caught in multiple lies, telling co-workers she shaved her head because she had brain cancer and later telling them it was her friend who had brain cancer, her colleagues and friends said.
They said she also told co-workers at a day care center where she once worked that Superstorm Sandy severely damaged her home in Stony Point, and sent a boat into her living room. Concerned co-workers dropped by her home and found only minor damage to the carpet by her front door and no sign of a boat, they said.
"Every story she comes up with has a lie," said Julie Howat, 23, of Pomona, N.Y.
In the news report, the family's customer copy of the check was shown. It has the same "11/13 19:19" time stamp as the merchant copy that went viral. The report also claims that a bill from the couple's credit card company appears to show a $111.55 charge from the restaurant.
The customer check had $18 written for tip on the $93.55 total.
"It's not my handwriting. I don't know," Morales, now of Bedminister, N.J., said when confronted by the TV reporter.
High school acquaintances and former colleagues of Morales said the revelations Monday confirmed their suspicions about Morales' original story. In the past, Morales has sought sympathy from friends and co-workers through questionable stories, Howat said.
"Any tragedy that happened, she had to be a part of it," Howat said. "She needed sympathy and empathy."
Restaurant manager Byron Lapola on Tuesday told the (Bridgewater, N.J.) Courier-News that the eatery, which first opened three months ago, would not comment until they finish their investigation. Lapola said Morales, was "currently not on the schedule" to work.
In the meantime, the same social media that largely slammed the anonymous family in thousands of Facebook and online comments now has seemingly turned on Morales, who could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
Days after the story first was reported, Lapola told theCourier-News that he was not working the evening of the incident and that he never saw the family or the original check.
But Lapola stood by his waitress and said that he instructed his staff to discount an entree from the family's check and to credit the difference as a tip.
The message on the check — "I'm sorry but I cannot tip because I do not agree with your lifestyle and how you live your life" — snowballed into a national story after Morales took to Facebook to rant about being stiffed on the tip by a family who had called her "Dan."
Morales never contacted news outlets, but reporters began reaching out after her post was shared by several blogs.
Within days, camera crews were a regular sight at the restaurant and donations to Morales came pouring in. Last week, Morales said she had received about $1,700 in extra tips and that she, a former United States Marine, was donating the proceeds to the Wounded Warriors Project.
This case has enraged Howat because people from all over the world were sending Morales money after hearing the story.
"It's like she's taking it to a whole other level," Howat said. "Now you're lying to people to get their money. It's not even for sympathy now."
Karolee Larkin, 23, a former classmate, worked with Morales at the day care center.
"You can't believe much of what she says," Larkin said.
The Facebook page that initially shared Morales' check and rant said Tuesday it was waiting for more answers "and only hope that the allegations are not true."
The page's followers chimed in.
"She probably figured they just threw their copy of the receipt away anyway," Brandy Gardner said.
Janilee Caren Hanline-Mourning had her own theory.
"A credit-card statement can be easily faked," she said. "Just because they wrote in a tip on the customer copy (which is not a carbon) doesn't mean a thing."
Bichao reports for the (Bridgewater, N.J.) Courier-News; Nguyen and Zacchio report for the (Westchester County, N.Y.) Journal News.