Prosecutors Charge Four for Booking Hotel Rooms Reserved for COVID Patients

Even in a pandemic, scams don't go away

Hotel rooms
Hotel bookings are at the center of a pandemic-related scam, prosecutors say.

Since the pandemic began, hotel rooms have taken on a number of uses related to COVID-19. Some hotels made rooms available for free to first responders in the pandemic’s early days, for one thing. In mid-2020, New York City hotel rooms were made available so that people infected with COVID-19 could quarantine without putting their families at risk. It’s an eminently understandable system — but unfortunately, it’s also all too understandable that someone would look to take advantage of it.

Writing at Curbed, Caroline Spivak described a blockbuster case recently filed in the Southern District of New York. Four people are accused of taking advantage of the city’s system for booking hotel rooms for quarantining patients and health care workers — and then using social media to resell these rooms for a profit.

At the center of the case is one of the defendants, Chanette Lewis. Lewis, Spivak writes, had a job for the city of New York booking hotel rooms for people who needed them. Because she had access to the system and the proper credentials, prosecutors charge, she and her associates were able to make it look as though the people for whom they were booking rooms were genuinely in need of them.

All told, Lewis and her associates made $400,000. If convicted, Lewis faces up to 70 years in prison, with her accomplices potentially facing 40 years each.

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