LAS VEGAS, Nevada – In the midst of the lights and luxury of Las Vegas Boulevard rise the Encore Tower Suites, a favorite treat for the Californian couple Ambria and Justin Luettjohann.
“We decided to start on New Year’s Day only for a short weekend break,” said Ambria. “And we’re very used to staying at the Wynn. It was kind of our favorite place.”
It was her first vacation since the pandemic broke out.
“An opportunity to do something after being protected for so long during the 2020 quarantine,” Justin said.
Due to restaurant restrictions in early January, they ordered room service. When they finished, Justin says he took the tray outside.
Ambria did the same thing she did every night at home before going to bed.
“I take my rings, my watch, every jewelry and put everything in one place.”
When she woke up the next morning, she walked a few yards to the kitchen area where she’d left everything.
“I wanted to put my wedding ring on and it’s not there!”
“And then I noticed that my things were gone too and I thought, wait a minute, where is my watch?” Justin added.
That was gone too. How was all your money from last night. A loss of $ 37,000, including her Rolex watches and Ambria’s ring, according to police reports.
Right under their sleeping noses.
“Maybe I’m naive to believe that when I go to sleep I’ll be safe in my own room, but that’s the expectation!” said Ambria.
In the police report, an investigator for the Wynn Company told the Las Vegas Police Department that the room lock log showed the suite door opened from the inside at around 1:49 p.m., which could mean the door was not completely closed.
Justin says that’s not the case.
“I locked the French doors with a bolt. Because of the style and design of the door, there were none of these latches.”
But there is no record of anyone entering the room from outside.
“While room break-ins are not necessarily uncommon anywhere in the world, not less on the Las Vegas Strip, I find the way they get into the room and the fact that people are actually still in their rooms , interesting room, “said security expert Adam Coughran, who served 19 years as a police officer in Orange County, California, with the tourist-focused police force.
“And that kind of crime, believe it or not, we’d pretty much see what we commonly call ‘door slides’, or people just walking down hotel corridors and pushing doors to see if they’re locked properly? Were they locked properly? “
That would be after a potential thief was able to bypass layers of hotel security.
In Encore Tower Suites, Justin describes, “It has a private entrance. You have to have a key to get in and just to get to the elevators you have to have a different key to get to the elevators.” and then up. So we thought this was a very, very safe place. “
Her police report cites a second incident with a similar MO that occurred 10 minutes after her room was hit.
“When we encounter these type of crimes, we start tracking them to see if they are linked,” said LVMPD Lt. Jose Hernandez of the Convention Center Area Command.
He said a link in the case is likely based on the close timing of the two Jan 2 crimes.
“Most of these crimes are typically committed by suspects, not necessarily hotel staff,” said Hernandez.
One exception: Jeff Berk. He and his wife were at the Encore in November 2017 when Carlos Valle was working there as a housekeeper.
As noted in the court records, Jeff explains how Valle “took one of the hotel keys, which were our spare keys that we left behind in the room, and he took it days later to craft, plan, and commit a crime.”
Valle and his accomplice, Jesus Cervantes, were both convicted of gross theft crimes of over $ 100,000.
“What it tells guests is not to take false comfort that there is a level of security that cannot be penetrated,” said Berk.
The police are still investigating Luettjohann’s case and no one from the Wynn would be on camera.
Todd Fasulo, vice president of security, investigations and crisis management, wrote, “There is nothing more important to those of us who have worked to make Las Vegas an attractive destination after the pandemic than the safety of our guests. A safe environment to create, every alleged theft must be secured. ” is reported to Metro. As they are conducting criminal investigations, they have all available information on suspects, etc. We also conduct an internal investigation of all incidents and also pass this information on to Metro. We regularly check the doors of rooms and suites to make sure that if the guest closes the door, close it properly. “
Coughran says there are ways to get around this.
“Number one, you could easily have used a tool under the door – essentially a tool that slides under the door and allows the door mechanism to open from the inside, which also bypasses the latch.”
He says thieves are also known to electronically hack the door lock or take the easy route of renting a room yourself.
“And they would spend hours on the floor through the evening and into the wee hours of the morning committing crimes.”
You might think with all the cameras in casinos, these crimes should be easy to solve.
“Cameras in the hospitality industry, it’s a good balance between weighing the privacy of guests, weighing the security of the hotel, but also weighing the liability and risk to the hotel,” says Coughran, which is why most cameras are on the field are located. in lobbies and elevator areas, but likely not in hallways on guest room floors.
We asked the Wynn about this and they said, “As a practical matter, we don’t publicly disclose the location of our cameras or the areas they cover. Of course, we assure our guests that their individual rooms are private, not camera-covered . “
KTNV has been tracking hotel room robberies for years. Following the fall of the Berks at Encore in 2017, a thief used a key card to break into a couple’s hotel room at the Venetian in 2019 and stole $ 4,000 worth of personal items.
And just last month, a police report was filed by locals after staying at the Cosmopolitan. It describes another alleged theft in the room while the guests slept. Thieves reportedly stole her bag, wallets, credit and debit cards, Apple Watch, and room key. According to the police report, there is no video surveillance available.
The Cosmopolitan said, in order to protect the privacy of guests, “Do not comment on details related to a person’s stay.”
According to Nevada Innkeeper Act, hotels are not responsible for theft of property that a guest leaves in a room where they have access to a safe.
“We didn’t put our things in the safe,” Justin said. “We didn’t. We felt like in a locked room while we were there, in a very, very safe – in our opinion – hotel room in Las Vegas was damn safe.”
Jeff Berk sued the Wynn. His case ended in arbitration for $ 25,000 in emotional distress.
On the criminal side, LVMPD says these investigations take time and often depend on thieves pawning property that they can trace back to the victim.
Lt. Hernandez suggests, “Take pictures of your expensive valuable items. Make a note of all serial numbers.”
Another way to protect yourself while traveling is to “travel with the toddler alarm that you can hang on the door,” according to Coughran.
Justin goes one step further.
“I’ll probably have to put my own cameras in my room in the future so I know what happens when I’m either away or even when I’m asleep.”
All of the victims we’ve spoken to hope their stories will convince others to take security into their own hands.
They say they won’t be returning to Las Vegas anytime soon because they believe the hotels care more about protecting their reputations than their guests.
This story was originally published by Darcy Spears on KTNV.