|The Pantagraph, Bloomington,
Ill.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News
May 3, 2008 - UPDATED 3:10 p.m. BLOOMINGTON -- A 23-year-old hotel employee was charged with theft Saturday after allegedly letting several people stay in rooms without paying and telling police she did so only because some of them were homeless.
Jeannie M. E. Roberts, 23, of rural Wapella was still at the McLean County Jail on Saturday afternoon after being charged with theft of labor, services or property, a Class A misdemeanor.
The general manager of the Clarion Hotel, 1219 Holiday Drive, discovered early Friday that five rooms were being used even though they were not officially checked out to anyone, according to court records. The police were called and checked out the rooms, where the manager was able to identify Roberts, the records said.
The unpaid guests were found in a hot tub and the five rooms not rented were occupied by about 20 people, a Bloomington police report said.
The people, whom Roberts claimed were mostly homeless and she felt sorry for them, were issued criminal trespass warnings and ordered to leave.
Roberts was questioned and admitted she had activated key cards for the rooms without anyone paying for them, according to the court records.
Items damaged or otherwise affected by the illegal stay were four closet doors, three air vents, a plastic plant, three microwaves, a mini refrigerator, a comforter and three bottles of liquor, a Bloomington police report said.
Richard Chanofsky, general manager at the Clarion, said Saturday that he believes the nonpaying guests were given the keys on Thursday, so they hadn't been staying long.
"Most employees have done what they can to improve the reputation (of the hotel)," he said. "The ownership and myself have worked hard to put this hotel in a positive light, and we hope to put this past us quickly and concentrate on the community."
He points to Heartland Head Start as an organization that the hotel has helped. The Clarion has hosted two annual Breakfast with Santa events for Heartland Head Start students.
Chanofsky declined to comment on whether the female employee, who he said has been employed with the hotel at least six months, will be fired.
"The person's future will be discussed when this comes out," he said.
Police said Saturday that it was unlikely the investigation would determine whether the nonpaying guests were actually homeless, as it likely wouldn't affect what the woman could be charged with.
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