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What's for Brunch? A Sting at Pennsylvania's Hotel Bethlehem

By Pamela Lehman, The Morning Call, Allentown, Pa.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News

June 10, 2011--For months, managers at Hotel Bethlehem knew they had a big problem with their swanky Sunday brunch at the historic downtown landmark.

Sure, the tables filled up with customers eager to dine on prime rib, shrimp and decadent desserts to the accompaniment of live music.

But when it came time to tally the receipts, mangers who had seen customers paying with cash had very little of it in their cash drawer. An internal investigation revealed about $25,000 missing over about 10 months, according to police.

Suspecting that servers might be pocketing the cash, the hotel asked police for help.

Six officers posing as businessmen dined undercover Sunday to try to bait the employees suspected of stealing cash. Hotel officials told police they suspected that only customers at larger tables paying with cash were targeted by the employees.

After police paid their tab with $200 in marked bills provided by the hotel, server Salvatore Cardamuro pocketed the money, according to court records. Two other hotel employees also admitted stealing cash and were also charged Wednesday.

As undercover assignments go, this one was pretty sweet -- no drug dealers or armed gang members. But it was crucial to cracking the hotel's case, Bethlehem police Lt. Mark DiLuzio said.

"We're talking about a lot of money. And while some may look at this as a laughing matter, it's not a laughing matter if it were your business," DiLuzio said. "There was a lot of money going out of that place."

Police said Cardamuro told them he had been stealing thousands in cash from the hotel's brunch since August.

DiLuzio said while the three employees who were charged said they stole nearly $7,000, the total could more than triple as the investigation continues.

"What they claim they stole is way off what an audit revealed," he said.

Cardamuro and two other hotel employees -- Jessica Burick and Rita Ann Luciano -- have all been charged with theft and receiving stolen property. All have been released on unsecured bail.

Hotel Bethlehem General Manager Dennis Costello could not be reached for comment on whether the three employees still work there.

According to court records:

In May, Costello contacted police about a large amount of cash being stolen during Sunday brunches.

Cardamuro, 23, of 1673 S. Church St., Allentown, was employed as a server and had only logged credit card -- and no cash sales -- during the brunches, police said. Costello said there were sales recorded of cash payments made by diners served by Cardamuro.

On Sunday, the six police officers were seated in Cardamuro's section and paid their $203 tab with marked money. Police said they later found Cardamuro in an employee break area with the marked cash in his pocket.

He told police he would not log sales for some large groups of diners who paid for their brunch in cash.

Cardamuro said when his girlfriend broke up with him last summer, he used the stolen cash to pay for two vehicles and a home he had purchased, according to court records.

Cardamuro said he stole between $200 and $400 at each shift, police said.

Cardamuro is free under $20,000 unsecured bail. He could not be reached for comment Thursday.

Police said Burick, of Whitehall Township, and Luciano, of Bethlehem, who admitted stealing about $200 each, were charged via summons late Wednesday.

Of the six officers involved in the sting, DiLuzio said only one was on duty -- the other five volunteered.


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Copyright (c) 2011, The Morning Call, Allentown, Pa.

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