Originally published 01:54 p.m., February 15, 2012
Updated 05:32 p.m., February 15, 2012
PORT ST. LUCIE — High-security airport badges and a laptop computer were among items reported missing in one of three incidents at St. Lucie West hotels thought to be the work of people who distract cleaning staff to try to steal things, according to a Port St. Lucie police spokesman Wednesday and reports.
In a Feb. 4 case at a SpringHill Suites on Northwest Courtyard Circle near Interstate 95, a man said he noticed several things missing from his room after he returned from having breakfast. The 48-year-old man said "several FAA and FCC high-security clearance airport ID badges" were stolen, along with a computer, camera, binoculars, curling iron, cash and other items.
"They're going up to the floors where housekeeping is, and while the housekeepers are inside the rooms cleaning, the suspects are going in and they're rummaging through personal belongings left behind," said Officer Tom Nichols, Port St. Lucie police spokesman.
A similar incident is thought to have happened the same day at a nearby Holiday Inn Express. A staff member told police two men entered a room where a maid was cleaning. The staff member said the men went in as if the room were theirs, but the maid said she needed more time and asked if they could return in 10 minutes. "One suspect allegedly distracted the maid ... while it is alleged that the other suspect may have been looking around the room for items of value," a report states.
On Monday, another incident was reported at the same Holiday Inn Express. A housekeeper told police she'd just started cleaning a bathroom when a man came in and walked to a purse on a table. He started looking through the purse and the housekeeper told him he didn't belong there and that she was going to get help. Nichols said investigators have video stemming from at least one incident, but investigators don't know who is responsible.
One man is described as black, 5-foot-10 to 6 feet and 25 to 35 years old. The other is described as white or Hispanic, 25 to 35 years old, 5-foot-8 to 5-foot-10 and 180 to 190 pounds. "We're also trying to encourage people that are visiting from out of town ... if you're going to leave your valuables behind, use the house safe there, lock up your valuables or take them with you," he said.
The victim who had the security badges told police he called to have them canceled. Police on Wednesday at the SpringHill Suites seized the vehicle thought to have been used in the incidents. Investigators are working to get a warrant to search the car after spotting items inside that fit the description of at least some of the items reported stolen.