Since the start of the pandemic, hotel rooms have taken on a number of uses related to COVID-19. Some hotels have made rooms available to first responders for free at the start of the pandemic, on the one hand. In mid-2020, hotel rooms in New York were made available so people infected with COVID-19 could self-quarantine without putting their families at risk. It’s an eminently understandable system – but unfortunately it’s also all too understandable for anyone to seek to take advantage of it.
Writing to Curbed, Caroline Spivak described a recently filed successful case in the Southern District of New York. Four people are accused of taking advantage of the city’s system to book hotel rooms for quarantining patients and healthcare workers – then using social media to resell those rooms for a profit.
At the center of the case is one of the defendants, Chanette Lewis. Lewis, writes Spivak, had a job for New York City reserving hotel rooms for people in need. Because she had access to the system and the proper credentials, prosecutors say, she and her associates were able to give the impression that the people they were booking rooms for actually needed them.
In total, Lewis and his associates won $ 400,000. If found guilty, Lewis faces up to 70 years in prison, her accomplices potentially facing 40 years each.
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