Sydney Yeager gives her victim statement during the sentencing of Matthew Gonzalez.
THE BLADE/AMY E. VOIGT
Calling him a successful businessman “with a dark side,” Lucas County Common Pleas Judge Linda Jennings Wednesday sentenced a former South Toledo salon owner to 15 years in prison for secretly videotaping teenaged girls undressing for tanning sessions at his salon.
“Your actions were very calculated and sinister,” Judge Jennings told Matthew Gonzalez, owner of the former Matthew Vincente Salon on Garden Road. “You enticed your victims by letting them tan for free. You would call and text them and ask when they were coming in to tan and when they did, before they did, you would tell them you were going to set up the room for them, but you weren’t setting the room up for them, you were setting it up for yourself.”
Placing his cell phone with its video camera activated in an air-conditioning vent near the tanning bed, Gonzalez would tape them undressing, video he later downloaded to his computer.
“You befriended the victims. You befriended their families. You got them to trust you,” the judge said. “You made them feel secure, and you violated that trust, and you violated that security. Your insidious actions have caused incalculable psychological harm to your victims.”
Gonzalez, 50, of 1337 Cromly Ct., Maumee pleaded guilty July 29 to three counts of illegal use of a minor in nudity-oriented material, a second-degree felony, for incidents in June and July of 2012 involving two 16-year-old girls and a 17-year-old girl. Three additional counts of that charge as well as one count each of tampering with evidence and obstructing official business were dismissed as part of a plea agreement.
Gonzalez was classified a sex offender who must register his address with the sheriff for the next 25 years.
Prior to sentencing, attorney Ronnie Wingate laid out a case for placing Gonzalez on community control with treatment requirements rather than prison.
Gonzalez himself spoke at length about how sorry he was, how spending time in jail had “freed” him from the anger he felt when he was arrested, and made him realize how his own actions had let down his family, his long-time clients, and friends.
Still, it was the testimony of the three young victims that packed the most punch. The young women related how learning they’d been recorded undressing by an adult they trusted had caused them to lose trust in others.
“At one point I was very close to that man,” said Jenna Phillips. “I grew up with him and his family, and to be hurt and let down by someone you thought of kind of like a father figure or second father to you and then everything changed when you find out you can’t trust them anymore.”
Sydney Yeager fought back tears as she told how the experience had hurt her and asked the judge to sentence him to “double digit” years in prison.
“I am now so paranoid about everything, frequently and constantly looking around for cameras everywhere — dressing rooms, tanning salons, locker rooms, anywhere where I may change clothes,” she said, adding that watching the video of herself made her feel “dirty and betrayed.”
Natalie Kieffer, who discovered the cell phone in the vent and alerted police, said she at first feared that Gonzalez would find out it was her who reported him and come after her.
“I thought that if he was desperate enough to jump out a second-story window to get rid of his phone, he was capable of anything,” she said, referring to Gonzalez’ attempt to elude police investigating the complaint. “We will never know how long Mr. Gonzalez committed this crime, but I do know he deserves to stay in jail for the maximum time possible because of what he did emotionally and mentally to the other girls and myself.”
Mr. Wingate, clearly upset by the sentence, declined to comment afterward. Gonzalez had faced a maximum of 24 years in prison.
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