May 06–The ongoing liquidation sale at the shuttered Akron City Centre Hotel inadvertently exposed at least hundreds of hotel guest records, including photocopies of still-current driver's licenses and credit cards, to prospective bargain hunters wandering the rooms.
The paper records, apparently abandoned by the hotel's previous ownership, have since been moved to a secure location and will be shredded, the manager overseeing the liquidation and also Joel Testa, the new owner of the downtown Akron hotel, both said Friday.
The guest reservation records and other old hotel documents were found Thursday in stacks on cluttered tables in the rear of a room on the hotel's West Mill Street ground floor, away from the primary sale areas. While the hotel guest documents were not marked for sale, the room was filled with chairs, tables and other items that were part of the public liquidation. Thursday was the first day of the sale.
Among those who spotted the hotel records was Chad Shultz, a Stark County deputy sheriff, who said he went to the sale at the request of his wife.
"I was there to check out the lamps," he said.
Shultz said he was stunned when he came across the paper records. One of the documents he looked at included a photocopy of a hotel guest's still-valid American Express card and the guest's current driver's license.
Shultz said he thought the former guests could be vulnerable to identity theft crimes if any of the shoppers walked out with the documents.
"Chances [of identity theft] are slim. But it definitely was possible," Shultz said.
He brought the matter to the attention of the liquidation firm handling the sale.
Shultz, a Portage County resident, said Friday he was pleased to learn the records had been moved and will be destroyed.
"That's a good thing," he said.
Jim Long, project manager for International Content Liquidations, which is overseeing the sale, said the hotel documents were never meant to be in public view.
"They have been secured," Long said. "We took care of it right away."
Long said he doubts anyone at the sale would have walked off with the records. Hotel security for the sale includes Akron police, he said. Prospective buyers also have to sign in and provide identification before being allowed to shop.
Testa said he thought the old records were in a part of the building not open to the public sale. The previous hotel owner left the records behind after closing the hotel this past winter, he said. Testa said he had confidence the sales liquidation firm is doing the proper thing with the documents.
"The company is diligent," he said.
Testa said he has no use for the old records, adding his business bought the building, not the company that operated the building.
The previous owner left behind rooms full of paperwork, he said.
"We don't want to be in possession. The best is to compile it all and shred it all," Testa said. "It is very unfortunate it was left behind."
The liquidation sale is designed to clean out the 19-story hotel at Cascade Plaza in the city's downtown prior to a major renovation.
New owner Testa City Centre Hotel LLC is planning to spend $25 million to convert part of the building into as many as 100 apartments, with the remainder of the space as a smaller hotel.
Testa said while planning is still taking place, the goal is to reopen the building in 12 months.
Jim Mackinnon can be reached at 330-996-3544 or [email protected] Follow him @JimMackinnonABJ on Twitter or www.facebook.com/JimMackinnonABJ