The Slap of Luxury

Fontainebleau Hilton security chief Chuck Collado isn't a cop. He just acts like one.

Another former guard, who asked for anonymity, recalls a similar incident in 1996. He claims to have arrived in the pool area as backup for a colleague who had detained a trespasser. The man became unruly. Seven guards arrived, handcuffed the suspect, and led him to the security offices. Collado took the man into an interview room and shut the door. "I heard the guy getting slapped, and I heard him being pushed against the wall, and Chuck saying 'You think you're tough?'" the former guard says.

The ex-guard, who was also fired for leaving his post, adds, "I think security guards should be able to defend themselves. But I don't think you should hit someone when they're defenseless and in handcuffs."

A fourth ex-guard, who also requested anonymity and acknowledges he was fired after a confrontation with a supervisor, claims to have seen Collado hit an unruly trespassing suspect on the head with a radio after the culprit started screaming. "[Collado] hit him pretty hard in his hair," the ex-guard says. "No blood came out. Then he asked for my handcuffs and put them on the guy, and he lifted the guy's arms up by the chain."

The ex-guard also claims to have seen a colleague handcuff a ten-year-old boy who had been causing trouble in the hotel's game room. The hotel probed this incident. "[B]ased on our investigation, it appears that Mr. Collado was not at the hotel when [the officer] supposedly handcuffed the boy in question. Upon being advised of this incident, Mr. Collado met with [the offending guard] and advised him that, under the circumstances, handcuffing the boy was against the hotel's policies. Mr. Collado then took away the handcuffs of all nonsupervisory members of the Security Department."

Spiers and the others maintain that Collado's gung-ho style inspired his staff to such excesses. Dissatisfied with the hotel's investigation of Collado, Spiers contacted the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the FBI in 1998. After receiving no reply, he contacted New Times.

At least one former employee thinks the allegations against Collado are wrong. Alex Villasuso, who left the Fontainebleau this year as a security supervisor after eight years, defends his former boss. "I know there was a little group that wanted Chuck out of the Fontainebleau. But during the time I was there, no, I never saw anything like that," he says in reference to the beatings. Villasuso now works for another security company.

Collado holds security officer and private investigator licenses. Records show he's never been charged with a crime in Florida, nor have he or the hotel been sued in connection with any of the incidents cited by the four guards. "In my opinion, Mr. Spiers is a disgruntled employee," asserts the Fontainebleau's Lisa Cole. She produced a June 16, 1999, letter from Miami Beach Police Chief Richard Barretto thanking Collado for his professionalism and assistance in a case.

And Spiers may have an ax to grind. In 1997 he filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against Collado and the hotel, claiming that he was discriminated against because he is not Hispanic. The EEOC ruled Spiers had grounds to sue, but so far Spiers has not pushed the matter in the courts. Spiers quit the Fontainebleau in January after five years there. "I'm just saying what I saw," he says. "I'm telling the truth."

tris_korten@miaminewtimes.com

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