Detectives said Kaitlyn Murphy, 31, of Delray Beach, turned herself in at the Stuart Police Department Tuesday afternoon and faces a felony fraud charge.
During her initial questioning at the police department, police also found more shards of glass in her purse. Police say she admitted to lying about glass in food at eleven restaurants, including Stuart Boathouse, Pusateri’s Pizza, Bono’s, Anthony’s Coal Fire Pizza, Fresh Catch, Carmela’s, Luna’s Pizza, and Outback Steakhouse. They questioned her about other restaurants with similar incidents, but police said she couldn’t remember whether she had been to others.
For weeks, police say Murphy went into Stuart restaurants, claiming she found glass in her food. Her lip would be bleeding, but she would tell the wait staff it was not a big deal. They comped her meals. Some gave her gifts cards. Others even packed her food to go, employees said.
A manager at Carmela’s in Stuart posted the incident on a Facebook page. Through that post, employees at other restaurants started chiming in, describing how they had experienced similar incidents. The employees all described the same woman, who had the same story.
“The mistake that she made was this is a tight knit community. A lot of the restaurant owners and employees know each other,” said Sgt. Michael German
At least two restaurants pulled surveillance photos which helped police identify their suspect. The pictures were also posted on social media.
Pressure on social media, police say, encouraged Murphy to turn herself in.
Police say Murphy, in total, cost the restaurants hundreds of dollars in comped meals, gift cards, lost tips and lost food that was thrown away to be sure there was not any glass in the food or in the kitchen.
She confessed to police and explained why she defrauded the restaurants, Gerwan said.
“It was her statement that she could not afford the meals,” Gerwan said. “She also confessed that she learned the scheme from a friend of hers.”
According to an arrest affidavit, that friend was someone she knew from a Stuart drug and alcohol rehabilitation center.
Murphy was temporarily staying at the center when police say she committed the crimes.
A manager of the center recognized Murphy in the photos circulating on social media.
That manager told police they forced Murphy to leave the facility as a result.
The arrest affidavit shows Murphy told the manager that she was targeting the restaurants because it gave her an adrenaline rush. Murphy told the manager she had quit drugs and alcohol and needed to replace that behavior with another destructive behavior.
Murphy went back to her apartment in Delray Beach.
“She stated she was trying to lay low hoping the story would go away. But, it didn’t go away,” Gerwan said.
Stuart restaurant employees say they are relieved she has been stopped.
“It’s awesome,” said T.J. Carmody, manager at Fresh Catch.
Now, they know they did nothing wrong when glass was found in Murphy’s entree.
“The server and the kitchen. It takes a lot of pressure off of them.”
Police want to remind anyone that if they are truly hungry, this is not the way to get help.
“If you need a hand out, just be honest and ask,” Gerwan said.
Murphy was also just hired to be a server in the area, days before her arrest.