Aparecida Pata and Denize Ferreira packed a Samsonite suitcase with Chanel handbags, Hermès belts, Ray-Ban sunglasses, and Burberry tops for a stylish summer escape from Brazil to Miami.
But they got a rude reception in South Beach, where everything in that suitcase was stolen from their hotel room while they were at breakfast. Even worse, they say employees at the hotel, the Miami Beach Resort & Spa, all but refused to help — and then kicked them out.
"We've been here for almost a month and are going back [to Brazil] because we have no more money," Pata says. "If I didn't have my friend with me, who had our travel documents and emergency money, we would have been like beggars."
The friends' troubles began June 8, when the 58-year-old Pata and 73-year-old Ferreira ate at the hotel's Hibiscus Court. When they returned to their room, their belongings were gone. According to the police report, an employee had finished cleaning Pata's room when a six-foot-two black man who claimed to be their son walked into the suite and showed a room key. A security camera captured the man later walking out with all of their luggage.
"This man took everything. All of the designer items, money that was in my friend's suitcase, our phones, everything," Pata says.
The total damage: more than $20,000 worth of goods, including $1,800 in cash and credit cards, an iPad, Chanel handbags, Cartier jewelry, and diamonds.
As police investigated and a hotel manager promised to help solve the problem, the women remained in Miami. Eventually, the hotel handed over a damage release report with a paltry offer: $2,000 as compensation in exchange for releasing the hotel from liability, which, according to Eduardo Moya, the hotel manager, was standard procedure.
"The Miami Beach Resort completed an incident report and forwarded the claim to the Resort's insurance company," Moya wrote. "As per the Resort's insurance policy, the guest was offered the maximum possible compensation payment of $1,000 per guest for a total of $2,000."
Pata refused the money.
"I didn't sign the papers," Pata says, and that's when things got even worse. The hotel promptly kicked them out, she says. "We called the cops, but the cops didn't do anything, and the cops also told us we had to leave," Pata says.
Pata says Moya had originally agreed to let her stay at the hotel as long as necessary; however, Moya claims she had failed to make a reservation past June 22, which was completely booked for that evening.
Moya says that "the manager on duty personally made reservations [at another hotel] and paid for the guest's transportation."
He also stated the staff invited Pata and her friend for breakfast during most of their stay and "allowed them to make long-distance calls on a daily basis to Brazil on a complimentary basis." However, a hotel statement sent to Riptide by Pata reflects she was charged for the daily calls to Brazil.
This isn't the first burglary reported at the hotel this year. Another was reported April 21, and over the past year, 12 thefts and one vehicle burglary have been documented, according to police reports.
Pata and Ferreira are now back in Brazil and still haven't received a penny from the Miami Beach Resort & Spa.
"I feel like I should never go back to Miami," Pata says. "I want justice. That's all I want — nothing more than that. I don't want to win money; I just want justice for the things that they robbed, for the bad they caused me. I believe in the justice of the United States, and I am certain that the court isn't going to leave me hanging."