Man Arrested Because He Booked Hotel Discount Rate He Wasn’t Entitled To

A man had pled guilty to impersonating a law enforcement officer in order to get hotel discounts. He posed as a U.S. Marshal, and had a fake badge to show to prove his eligibility for a government rate.

He “at least 10 discounts over a five-year period, totaling $2,950” at the Pigeon Forge, Tennessee SpringHill Suites. He boked government rates and “flashed a badge and claimed to be a deputy U.S. Marshal.” Here’s the most priceless part,

“The defendant always paid in cash and on more than one occasion told the desk clerk collecting the payment to wash her hands after handling the money as it was confiscated drug money he had received as bonuses for ‘busts,’” Assistant U.S. Attorney Jennifer Kolman wrote in court records.

SpringHill Suites, Pigeon Forge

A manager checked with the U.S. Marshal Service to verify employment prior to his last stay at the property. They determined he wasn’t an employee of the agency, and sent to deputy marshals to wait for him to check in. Once they observed him misrepresenting himself, he was approached and admitted what he was doing and was mirandized but not immediately arrested.

Several years ago frequent flyers would sign up free with IBM PartnerWorld which would give you the right to create business cards with IBM’s logo on it, provided they also included your partner number. Then, if ID’d when booking an IBM hotel rate, they’d have a business card to show that was legitimate.

Most hotels don’t seek to ‘ID’ people booking special rate codes, but at some hotels and some destinations it’s quite common. At one point Marriott properties in Las Vegas were instructed to always ID IBM rates for instance. And the Grand Hyatt Hong Kong would email guests in advance letting them know they’d need to bring proof of eligibility or be asked to pay rack rate.

There are lessons in all of this. First, don’t commit fraud. But second, if you are going to at least don’t impersonate a law enforcement officer as part of the fraud. There are other great corporate rates (still not worth it, but bear with me) that expose you to less jeopardy. Ulltimately, the law enforcement angle aside, any ‘discount rate fraud’ should be a matter between the hotel and guest and shouldn’t involve the government.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Always check the travel policy of your employer. Many will let you use the corporate booking tool for personal travel, or have special rates for leisure travel.

  2. The Deloitte code for Marriott has been well shared among my group of consulting friends. And been used dozens upon dozens of times. No one has ever been ID’d

  3. “… any ‘discount rate fraud’ should be a matter between the hotel and guest and shouldn’t involve the government.“

    ==> I don’t know that i agree… fraud is fraud …. and if such, it should be prosecuted… in some cases it can be a Federal matter; if for instance you used the USPS services or other electronic means to further your attempted fraudulent activities.

    In THIS case, it sounds like the real “crime” here that he will stand for will be what appears to be his use/possession of counterfeit Federal law enforcement credentials and not so much so for the act of unjustly attempting to receive a monetary benefit to which he was not apparently entitled.

  4. Many years ago, a colleague and I traveled to a city extensively for work. We preferred the Westin due to our SPG status. Our CFO (who was cheap – go figure) found a lower rate at another hotel that was definitely not of Westin quality, nor part of SPG. In order to avoid having to stay at the cheaper property, we asked the front desk at the Westin who their biggest corporate customer was. It was Blue Cross/Blue Shield. We called the 800 number and asked for the BCBS rate at the Westin, and it was 30% less than the best available rate, and, importantly, cheaper than our CFO’s newfound deal hotel. We could see the BCBS corporate code when logging in to our SPG accounts, enabling us to make future reservations online, so from then on we booked that special rate at that property.

  5. Years ago before the internet was popular the hotels put out the big books with all of their locations and some of the information was what businesses were in the area. I’d pick out the largest company that was close and call the hotel to make my reservation. I’d ask “Do you have a rate for GE, Boeing, etc. and they would say yes we do and give it to me. I never told them I worked for these companies, just if they had a rate for them. Now they have codes and that doesn’t work anymore. Saying your a federal law enforcement officer is just plain stupid!

  6. @Chris, great story but how could you see the BCBS code in your account? not that I’m planning anything similar, I’m just curious.

    True story: for several years in the late 90’s I got a good rate from Hertz by having put my AAdvantage number on file in my profile the first time I made a reservation by phone. Then once I asked the reservation agent if I would get a better rate from a AAA membership than American, and she said it would be better but then the actual rate was higher. After some investigation and confusion she figured out that the original agent had put my AAdvantage number in as a Corporate Discount Program number and coincidentally it was a real number of a real company that had a much better rate.

    And by the way, agree with Gary on the fraud issue. The law against impersonating a police officer was probably written on the assumption that the impersonation is somehow related to their unique duties, like if you put lights on your car and start pulling people over. If a security guard tells someone on Tinder that he’s a police officer to make himself sound more impressive that does not present any unique damage to society, no more than if he said he was a VP at IBM.

  7. Clickbait title – the reason he was arrested is that he was impersonating a federal officer. Not that he made reservations.

  8. I am 72 years old and often book a “senior rate” and am happy to report I always get asked for ID.

  9. Impersonating an officer is a crime with punishment written into criminal code. Falsifying a discount with a hotel might get the discount rate removed but nothing more.

  10. Totally agree with Francis on this one. Gonna have to submit this one for “Worst/Most Deceptive Post Teaser O’the Month” award. I’m thinking it wasn’t so much getting a hotel rate he wasn’t entitled to that was the big problem here. lol

  11. Yes – agreed with Francis and Brady – you don’t get arrested for booking a discount hotel rate. You get arrested when you flash a badge that says you’re a U.S. Marshall. Hoping you change your title on this one.

  12. Tim, Francis and Brady, I agree the title is only half the story, but that’s what makes it fun. Of course you know there must be more to the story if a guy got arrested for getting a discount he didn’t deserve, and you wonder why, and you click on it and you find out that the title is technically correct (he was merely trying to get a discount he didn’t deserve and it got him arrested) and as you would have guessed there’s more to the story (the ruse he used was a pestle with a poison). I liked it.

  13. @SeanNY2: Back around 2003, if you made a reservation with a corporate discount code over the phone with SPG, you could see that discount number if you pulled up your reservation online. I don’t think it’s that way with Marriott now.

  14. It is also a federal crime to impersonate a federal employee. It is fine to request a discount but don’t ever impersonate someone.

  15. He was arrested for impersonating being a federal marshal not for using a discount rate. Nice click bait.

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