By Chris Lane
By Jeff Balke
By Aaron Reiss
By Angelica Leicht
By Dianna Wray
By Aaron Reiss
By Camilo Smith
By Craig Malisow
Michelle recruited her friend Terry to appear on the show with her. Gomez said he'd create a story for them. Michelle didn't like what he had in mind.
"At first it was going to be two lesbians. I was like, 'God, no. You gotta come up with something better.' "
Gomez then changed the plot: Michelle would date Terry's "boyfriend," another ringer she describes as a "Metallica reject."
"The cheating stuff was filmed all black and white, like us at a restaurant or him walking me upstairs to my apartment. The guy [Gomez] was weird. He asked us to act like we're making out. I was like, 'Why don't I just get on my knees and give him a blow job? Would that be good for the show?...Dude, you're not going to pimp me out.' "
Michelle says Gomez then told her, " 'You need to take one for the team.' I said, 'No, really, I don't. I'm taking 400 bucks for the team.' "
Terry told Michelle that Gomez had instructed her to say, "This nasty bitch gave me an STD." Michelle was surprised again when the episode aired and they used her last name.
She complained to Gomez. "He's like, 'Don't be telling people it's fake.' I was like, 'I'm sure as hell going to tell people it's fake.' I don't want people thinking I was dating this Metallica reject and gave him an STD. God, it was bad."
It got even worse. Mr. Metallica did a follow-up interview saying he and Michelle had sex.
Investigator Gomez denies that he staged Michelle's or any one else's scenario.
"No, that doesn't sound accurate. If it was that, we could do ten episodes in ten days. I'm not gonna buy that. I think she's just probably pissed off because maybe she has a sexually transmitted disease." He says the show receives more than 2,000 inquiries per month and doesn't need to use ringers.
Gomez says Michelle's supposed paramour is "just a guitar player who likes to pick up women and sing a song everywhere he goes."
Michelle says Gomez set up everything, calling her to arrange to meet the guy at a coffee bar while Gomez filmed it. "So here I am outside Starbucks with this geek playing guitar, long-ass hair, and all I'm thinking is that these people don't know that there's a chubby Mexican [Gomez] in the bushes peeping at us."
Michelle says she knows several people who've appeared surreptitiously on Cheaters. "They've done a lot of fake shows. Their whole premise at first was, 'We've got to keep the show going, so we do a fake one here and there.' "
Mark, another Cheaters alum, says he was channel surfing one night and saw his friend Becky on the show. (Mark and Becky asked that their real names not be used because they're still getting money for referrals to the show.) When Mark next spoke to her, "I told her that I'd seen the show and that I didn't know she had a boyfriend." Becky told him she didn't. It was made up. She was paid.
After Mark interviewed with the show, Gomez called Mark later that night and told him to come to the studio the next night to meet Grand, then head out to confront the cheating "girlfriend" supplied by the show.
When Mark arrived at his confrontation scene, "Tommy shows me this film of her and this other guy making out. And then I go up there and yell at her and call her a bitch and all that. I'd never even seen her up to this point. When we were going over to confront her, I didn't know which couple it was until the cameras got around her."
Mark says Grand and crew offered sincere sympathy. "At the end we get out and Tommy says, 'Sorry it turned out this way, you don't really need her.' Then he told me there were a few titty bars right around that area where I could get my mind off her."
But Grand might have sensed something was amiss when Mark couldn't direct them to their destination -- supposedly his and his girlfriend's favorite place. Or perhaps the many cheaters who seem to prefer dining -- and kissing -- openly on restaurant patios, or who forget to close their hotel room blinds, might have tipped someone off that some scenarios are fake.
Grand and Gomez say some people might be using the show as a vehicle to get on television, but Grand doesn't believe Gomez would ever stoop to staging scenes, and Gomez insists that the $400 payments are solely for the right to air the person's image.
If Cheaters has a conscience, Habeeb is it. His signature black outfits belie what seems to be genuine compassion for the show's clients, many of whom are undoubtedly real and in real pain. "Everyone's had that empty feeling in their stomach, not knowing what their mate is doing," Grand says.
Cheaters, originally a Goldstein/Habeeb production, is now all Bobby Goldstein. Habeeb is strictly the host.
Goldstein was convicted in 1989 and given two years probation for securing and executing a document by deception.