WESTMINSTER, Colo. (CBS4) – Four guests who stayed at a Westminster Westin hotel and had their cars stolen after they turned them over to valets, have now filed a lawsuit against the hotel claiming the establishment is guilty of “gross negligence” and even charged them for overnight valet parking after their cars were stolen.
“It was absolutely infuriating,” said Donna Brosemer, whose 2011 Infiniti was one of the 10 cars stolen in the early morning hours of Feb. 1, 2019. Westminster police said car thieves snagged $234,842 worth of cars in about an hour.
“This can happen to anyone,” said Brosemer. She said even after her car was stolen from the hotel, she was still charged for her stay and for the valet parking. “They knew they were wrong, they knew they were vulnerable, and we were the victims of that.”
According to police reports, witness interviews and the civil lawsuit, which was filed last month, dozens of hotel guests left their cars with the hotel valet for overnight parking. But there are indications the box containing the keys, which was located near the front of the hotel and in public view, was left unlocked.
According to a police report obtained by CBS4, “The valet key box did not appear to be damaged,” following the thefts.
Westminster police say just after midnight, Joseph Tylar Turner, 25, and William White, 30, walked into the hotel lobby, began taking keys and stealing cars. The pair came back time after time to get more keys and more cars, moving the cars to nearby neighborhoods.
“I was surprised,” said John Kaufman, a hotel guest who left his RAV4 with the hotel valet. “How do you steal a car from the valet?”
Kaufman said the thefts never should have happened and blamed hotel management for negligence. His car was one of the vehicles stolen.
“What I later learned was the box was left unlocked and was not secure. They may as well have left them out with a sign saying ‘take what you wanted,'” said Kaufman. His stolen SUV wasn’t found for another 45 days.
The general manager of the hotel, Genarro Moten, told CBS4 he was aware of the lawsuit, but couldn’t discuss what happened.
“I’m not available to comment on that,” said Moten.
It was even worse for Lauren Hix, who was staying at the hotel for a conference. Not only was her 2017 Hyundai Elantra stolen, the thieves apparently found information in her car leading them to her home, where they kicked in doors and burglarized her house while she was still at the hotel.
They stole watches, jewelry and snowboards and miscellaneous items. But a neighbor who saw the burglary in progress called police, and Turner and White were arrested at the scene. Both were later convicted on multiple charges and are serving time in the Department of Corrections.
Hix said the auto theft and resulting burglary has been traumatic.
“I went and got a gun, and I sleep with a loaded gun next to me every single night. I’ve been in trauma therapy for a year with a really good therapist.” She said she has also taken kickboxing and self-defense classes.
Hix said hotel management offered her credit for a one night stay to make up for what she went through.
“I was irate. I’m watching new doors being put on my house and they are offering me a one night stay. I was so mad.”
She too says the hotel charged her valet parking fees after her car was stolen.
Kaufman also told CBS4 the hotel came up short after his car was stolen.
“They bought my wife a sandwich and a coke. Other than that all I got was, ‘Oops, your car was stolen.'”
The victims, Brosemer, Hix, Kaufman and a fourth hotel guest, say they filed the lawsuit in an attempt to recoup their losses on their cars, out of pocket expenses, personal items stolen from their cars, charges for changing locks at their homes and other miscellaneous expenses.
The hotel victims told CBS4 the experience has taught them valuable lessons about leaving your car with a hotel valet. They suggested never leaving personal information in the car that could lead a thief to your home.
Don’t leave your house key on your vehicle key chain, suggested the victims and don’t leave a garage door opener in the vehicle. You’re also encouraged to ask the valets where the keys will be stored and what kind of security is in place.
Brosemer said since the mass auto theft, the hotel has changed its security procedures with respect to car keys and now keeps them out of public view.
“I would say from start to finish they did everything wrong.”