|By Tom Sharpe, The Santa Fe New
MexicanMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Oct. 26, 2011--An Alcalde family says in a lawsuit that they were spied on while taking showers last year in an Albuquerque hotel.
Eric and Evangeline Vigil and their two children -- a 17-year-old son and an 8-year-old daughter -- checked into the Ramada Inn, 2015 Menaul Blvd. NW, on April 23, 2010, during a weekend visit to Albuquerque to celebrate the teen's birthday, according to a lawsuit filed Tuesday in state District Court.
The complaint says the wife was given a "special rate" for Room 135 when she and the children checked in. The hotel staff were unaware that they were later joined by her husband, the lawsuit says.
While taking separate showers the next morning, each family member heard noises coming from behind the wall of the shower stall. When the father examined the area around the fixtures, the complaint says, he noticed a hole under the faucet.
"As Eric Vigil looked into the hole under the faucet, he saw an eye staring at him from behind the wall," it says. "Eric Vigil immediately hit the tub surround and shouted. He heard someone attempt to leave the area from behind the wall."
The complaint says when Vigil went into the hallway, he noticed a maintenance door next to his room door.
According to the complaint, the general manager, Sanketkunar Bhakta, told Vigil "the maintenance guy" had been fixing pipe behind the door, but after Vigil called police, Sanketkunar told the officers that he and another employee, Sergio Gonzales, were fixing a sewer line. Subsequently, Bhakta changed his story and claimed that he and Gonzales were fixing television cables in the corridor, the complaint says.
An inspection of the maintenance corridor found insulation had been removed from the wall behind the shower stall "to afford a clear line of sight into the shower stall" and that a plastic bucket was placed there to provide a place to sit while spying through the peephole, the complaint says.
The complaint, drafted by John Day and John Bienvenu of the Rothstein, Donatelli, Hughes, Dahlstrom, Schoenburg & Bienvenu firm in Santa Fe, seeks damages from WCB, a limited liability company in Carlsbad, and its owner, Western Commerce Bank of Albuquerque, which obtained the Ramada Inn franchise in a foreclosure action.
Also named as defendants are Wyndham Worldwide Hotels, a parent company of Ramada Inn, which used to operate the motel, as well as Bhakta, Gonzales and another employee, Gibi George, who had access to the maintenance corridor. The complaint says all three of them subsequently left their employment at the hotel.
The hotel is now called the Western Star Inn. Assistant General Manager Joseph Howard said Tuesday that he knows nothing about the case because he has only been working at the hotel for two weeks. Howard confirmed that Bhakta, Gonzales and George aren't employed there.
"Since the time that she was spied on, [the 8-year-old girl] has been afraid to take a shower by herself or to stay in a hotel room," says the complaint seeking damages for negligence, reckless infliction of emotional distress and invasion of privacy. "The Vigil family no longer feels comfortable staying at a hotel and have canceled trips because of this experience. The unknowing and unwelcome viewing of the Plaintiffs while taking showers has caused and continues to cause Plaintiffs great emotional distress and embarrassment."
Contact Tom Sharpe at 986-3080 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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