#96: Private Investigator Files Lawsuit Against Hotel For Detainment

A retired police officer and now private investigator, Saul Roth has filed a lawsuit for undisclosed damages against The Benjamin Hotel.  The suit he filed alleges that Roth has suffered emotional trauma and post-traumatic stress as a result of the hotel’s heavy-handed guards who allegedly “aided and abetted immoral contracts for sexual services on their premises.

It sounds as though Mr. Roth is upset about what took place in the hotel and he is trying to retaliate. Retaliate for what?  Keep reading.

The New York Post reported that Roth, a private investigator with International Investigative Group was following a male suspected of cheating on his wife. The unidentified man entered The Benjamin Hotel and Mr. Roth followed him to the 11th floor of which rooms were apparently $479 a night.

Roth covertly videotaped the man knocking on a room door which was eventually opened by a young woman in a bathrobe.

The suit that Mr. Roth filed states he could hear Jazz music in the room and could hear a male’s voice in the room tell a female to put lipstick on because that turns him (the alleged cheating husband) on.

Another report from the Daily News states that the cheating man left the hotel room 1 ½ hours later. It states Mr. Roth then knocked on the door to inquire about her name.  This is when security was called and Mr. Roth was allegedly stopped in the lobby area.

And that is when things took a turn for the worst.  Not for the man he was following but for Mr. Roth.

A security guard approached Mr. Roth and asked him what he was doing.  Roth told the The New York Post that he identified himself as working for a private investigative firm and tried to identify himself but the guards didn’t care to see his identification.

The Post quotes Mr. Roth saying, “They made it seem like I was some sort of lunatic in the building, who was scaring people. When I tried to leave they held out their arms, grabbed my clothing and pushed me back to show me I wasn’t going anywhere.”

Mr. Roth reached out to his supervisor who called the hotel. The hotel informed the supervisor that they were protecting the privacy of a million-dollar client.  The investigative firm referred to this client as a $2,500 hooker however they would not provide how they knew that information.

The New York Police Department eventually made it to the hotel and ordered the security guards to release Mr. Roth.  Mr. Roth states in the official suit that the security guards requested that they escort Mr. Roth out to look good for their client (the alleged prostitute).

Mr. Roth is again quoted in the Post saying,” I’m a retired Nassau county police officer,” Roth fumed. “They were very unprofessional and this was unjustified.”

The suit also states the hotel, “aided and abetted immoral contracts for sexual services on their premises that attracted [his] surveillance work.”

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FACEBOOK SUGGESTIONS AND COMMENTS ON THIS STORY

I originally found this article trough a Facebook group and I began reading the comments below the shared article.  Because I disagreed with some of the individuals that commented and I didn’t want to appear to bash anyone personally I left the names out.  This also gives you some insight to my thinking as an investigator.

One comment stated,” Unless the PI was a registered guest, then I will have to side with the hotel on this one. Hotels have to maintain confidentiality of all guests with the exception of child abuse, domestic violence and related crimes.”

PI surveillance comment

 

I partially agree with this statement.  Yes, hotels need to protect their guests.  Unless it is law enforcement I would have to believe that hotels are not required hotels are to give out any guest information especially to private investigators.

Another comment stated, “The best is to park outside of the hotel parking lot and get pictures . Also if they smoke it’s great case they have to go outside to smoke .”

Wolfe Commnet blurred

Depending on the hotel I would agree with this investigator’s thinking.  Just being at a hotel can be incriminating to some degree already for the individual he is watching.

Another comment states,” I don’t see what “right” he had to be on private property, regardless of whatever “immoral activities” were taking place there. The security guards, as agents of the owner, had every right to tell him to leave, unless he had a warrant or the hotel’s permission to be there. What am I missing?

PI Facebook

I agree with this comment completely.  This person wasn’t missing anything.  Regardless of whatever P.I. License you may hold it doesn’t allow you to do whatever you want.

Another one said,” Yeah, I hate to admit it, but he wasn’t a guest, so they had every right to throw him out and maybe could charged him with trespassing. Sounds like he’s still thinking he’s a cop and not a PI.”

PI Comment

I think there could be some truth in this statement because Mr. Roth in this article is way more upset then he should be.

This comment irritated me a bit because the tip seemed to come right out of a movie.  ” I have been a international private investigator for over 15 years. I have never had a issue with hotels. There are ways to be on property with the hotels permission even in NY- CA. You just have to be a good at pretexting. I even obtain copy of security video of the lobby and the hallway if there was one. Or pay to go in the hotel room after the guests check out while the maids clean the room. Lastly you can check in the room catty corner from the subject. Then make a hidden camera in a small trash can. Then place it on motion facing the subjects room propping your door open. There is a lot more ways to handle this. If you or anyone needs help or tips call me at XXX-XXX-XXXX.”

International PI

Everything about this comment seems wrong.  A high end, $500 a night hotel is not going to give anyone anything especially video within the hotel.  Heck, even with the proper authority, I have problems getting video tape from hotels.  Some random investigator is not going to get access to that information. Paying off maids and renting a room next to the hotel room you want to be next to sounds wonderful in a magical world. A magical world where no one calls the police on you for trying to spy on a guest especially when you have no idea how long the person you are watching is going to be there.

The last comment I replied to was the following comment. “When doing a surveillance like this, it’s better to get the property owner/manager’s permission. On this one deadbeat parent case that I worked, I was able to obtain permission from a property owner to place cameras in his privately owned postal service. I set one camera up on a tall shelf, then disguised it by surrounding it with toys on the shelf. I placed a second camera in a magazine rack so that I had two points of reference on the subject when he arrived. I was able to get my client the evidence needed for the case, and I had no problems from any workers.

Facebook comment

I commented back and forth with this individual and disagreed with his line of thinking.  He basically believed that he could work something out with the staff to be able to set up cameras somewhere in the hotel and because the investigator in the article could not do that, the surveillance failed.

The individual does not take anything into consideration like the flow of a surveillance, the surroundings, the type of hotel it was, the type of investigation that it was.  It’s an infidelity case where a man is cheating and you don’t know how long he will be at the hotel. Then you want to try and get the hotel or staff to allow you to put up cameras?  This is asking for a visit from the police.

My Final Thoughts On This Article

Every little part of the story in this article revealed something about the private investigator Mr. Roth and the surveillance.

One thing to note is that he is a retired police officer and he makes sure to share that information as if that is suppose to provide him more credibility or clout.

If it was the woman calling on him, he likely had it coming by knocking on the door and trying to get her name.  It  was probably the one extra thing that was unnecessary and caused him to draw attention to himself and eventually get caught.

He paints a very vague picture of what he was doing to get the information he was getting.  How could he hear what was going on in the hotel room unless he was loitering around the front door of the room.  He likely looked creepy and just like a lunatic who was scaring people (as he stated in the complaint).

Mr. Roth was on private property and had reason to be on the property other than to document what the man was doing (who did have reason to be there).  You can identify yourself as a private investigator all you want but it doesn’t make what you are doing look any less creepy or suspicious.  Anyone can create identification that identifies them self as something they are not.  Being a private investigator and a former law enforcement officer does not provide you any special treatment.

If I followed the man to the room I would hope to goodness I could get some video of the person opening the door as I passed by but would do nothing to draw attention to myself.  If there were video cameras in the hallways I would be especially careful.  And though I can see (kinda) why he would attempt to get the alleged prostitutes name, I don’t know that it would actually add anymore value then he already gained.  How did he know if she would even provide a real name?

I think this private investigator had his feelings and pride hurt more than anything.  He pushed the case too far and got caught.  If he wouldn’t have drawn attention to himself then this wouldn’t have been a story.

What do you think of the story from the New York Post?

Sources Mentioned:

New York Post

New York Daily News

12 comments

  1. Thanks for sharing this Andrew. There are a lot of issues with both how the investigator handled this whole situation and the subsequent comments. It just goes to show that the mentality of investigators is all over the place.

    The fatal mistake with Mr. Ross was his insistence on getting the woman’s name. He pushed it too far. It would have added very little value, but was a huge risk that ended up causing this mess. You are absolutely right, this was very much former law enforcement mentality. I guess they forget that when you are in the public world and don’t have a badge, nobody is required to talk to you.

    • I agree with you entirely Brian. Surveillance is a tricky thing. Sometimes investigators don’t push hard enough at the right times and push a surveillance to hard at the wrong times. It happens to everyone at some point in their career.

      Thanks for the thoughtful comment Brian. Take care.

      Andrew

  2. I don’t take offense to comments. But as PIs you guys should know not to believe everything you read in the paper.
    They did have every right to tell me to leave. The problem is they did not. They held me for police for almost one hour for no crime. If I was told to leave and did not leave its Trespassing. I was illegally held after proper ID. The paper claims I was still involved in the case. I was leaving the hotel when stopped. When I still attempted to leave security physically held me. Security can only arrest for in fact committed not on probable cause and cannot stop and inquire like police for reasonable suspicion
    The Newspaper asked what I did for a living prior to PI work. I did not throw it around that I was a cop. I work for a PI company and am not my own boss as some of you are. The info from the women in the room was requested by my boss. We had no video of a women in the room until then.I was not observed in the hotel by the inept security. The only reason I was stopped was because the women called security.He pays me not the client.
    The hotel even said they want to show me being taken out by police. It was all a show for their guest. They knew who I was and no threat and could have let me leave as i was doing.
    Anyway I am still more of a cop than a PI. I have been retired two years and do this infrequently when called. My main profession now is CJ college professor.
    Anyway nice to see this site and will pay attention to it now. I found this doing a google search of my name.

    • Saul,

      Thank you commenting. I can see your perspective and I can see the perspective of the hotel.

      Your boss put you in a bad position by making you do that and didn’t seem to have your well being in mind. Don’t be afraid to say no to something that might compromise your safety or well being regardless of who is paying you. And if they don’t care about your well being then maybe they aren’t worth working for.

      Andrew

      • Thank you. Point taken and since that time have declined to do a job the next day that I felt was not safe. He is not only a boss but a friend so that makes things a little difficult in that regard.
        But no matter the reason I was caught the hotel still does not have the legal right to hold me and especially for that length of time. That constitutes a civilian arrest. And as I wrote before they cannot act on probable cause which they still do not have as I did not commit a crime. If I was told to leave and stayed then it would have been trespass.
        Even though incidents occur like this frequently such as mall security I have the legal right to sue if they violate my rights Remembering my days as a PO the dept would def get sued if someone thought their rights were violated.
        If the hotel is concerned about about this they can contract out an NYPD Police officer from NYPD . He can work with security and if my incident occurs can make a stop based on reasonable suspicion. Be cause he would be a PO and know what he is doing , his investigation of me probably would have lasted 5 minutes and then I would be released.
        But on the other hand handling my incident in court may cost less than hiring a PO all the time. Just may be the price of doing buisness as security.

        • Saul,

          Regardless of whether it was illegal or not, you were an individual that did not belong in the hotel who was contacting people staying in the hotel. They don’t really know who you are regardless of any identification you provide them. They are liable to do what they can to protect their customers. I would have held you there as well until the police came and let you go. Then when the police confirm that you are not a threat then the liability is on them, not the hotel. The hotel did all they could do to keep their customers safe (or feeling safe).

          As for working for your friend, I understand how that can make things difficult. New York has over 1,500 private investigators working in the state as of 2014. There are plenty of other companies out there that wouldn’t put you in that position if you are looking for side work.

          If I don’t happen to catch the result of the law suit please let us know how it turned out if you don’t mind.

          Take care Saul.

          Andrew

          • Well as I am not a full time professional PI you probably were not a PO. And as a PO I know the laws of NYS. And as such it rises to the level of criminality when you hold someone that did not commit a crime as I did not. Its called Unlawful Imprisonment. If I wanted I could have had the detectives investigate as well as the DA. They would probably not arrest because of the circumstances that you have related, but that still does not mean its not a crime
            And as I stated if this is they way they want to conduct buisness then as part they should be ready to suffer the consequences of criminal and civil law. In this case luckily it is only civil law.
            If they want to be immune then they should have let me leave and called in a description to police for them to do a reasonable suspicion stop or contract for an off duty PO to work there that has those powers.
            As for other PI firms they don’t pay well and like I said there was an instance of being put in harms way and declined to do it again the next day
            Also I did not knock on the door to get her name. We had no video of her and waited an hour for her to come out when she received room service. We knew at that time she was not leaving for probably a long time
            I would believe that other PIs have been involved in similiar situations. Many are not as familiar with the law as I am or just decide they do not want to pursue a lawsuit.In this case the hotel was not that lucky. I actually teach about this in my class as it relates to mall security and housing complex security. That is why many in NYC make there security guards special patrolman who would be peace officers with powers of arrest. Still not able to do reasonable suspicion stops
            The case will probably take a few years as its in discovery now. Will let you know it conclusion if no disclosure is not part of any settlement

          • In this day an age with all the terrorist activity and crazy people going into building shooting people I don’t think for a second they did anything wrong regardless if you feel you have been wronged. If you were someone violent or crazy and something happened to someone later after you were let go then it would have been a story about how it could have been avoided if they would have held you until the police came.

            You have no more authority as a private investigator then an average joe.

            What would the detective investigate? What detectives in your state have the time to deal with something so minor? You were held until the police arrived and then you were let go. It didn’t sound like they hurt you or anything.

            I don’t think the business did anything they shouldn’t have done. They were trying to protect their customers. I would be surpised if you won the case personally.

            I wish you well and I guess I will be on the look out or the decision in a few years.

            Andrew

          • That is your opinion. What are they trying to protect. I was leaving. You don’t seem to care about the law. May be because you don’t know it or don’t care about it. You just have your vision of what is right and wrong in your own mind. Well it the US and you are entitled to your opinion. But its a nation of laws. You write the police would not investigate. Why would you debate something I wrote myself. There are many laws violated that are settled in civil court like the OJ case. Even O’Reilly lets his guest have the last word , but this is your site and your opinion rules the day even if it is one I wrote myself. I won’t waste my time writing here anymore as I expressed my opinion and the law as it relates to private security. I think you will be surprised in a few years.

          • Yes Saul it is my opinion and I express it freely just like you have on here. There are no hard feelings against ya Saul. We just don’t agree on this and that is and that is ok. I didn’t go through what you went through, you did. That is why we have a court system to figure it out. Maybe I will be wrong. Or maybe I will be right.

            Thank you for your comments on this.

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