Lawsuit over alleged robbery at Hotel 71 now in federal court
Loop North News

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Photo by Steven Dahlman

Lawsuit over alleged robbery at Hotel 71 now in federal court

Pilot says a large woman barged into his room, stole his money, and claimed it was for prostitution. Then things got weird.

26-Oct-13 – The lawsuit filed by an Air India pilot who claims he was robbed at Hotel 71 has moved up to federal court.

Captain Pankul Mathur, who is a general manager of operations for Air India, says on April 15 after a long flight to Chicago, he awoke at about 10:45 p.m. to someone banging on his hotel room door. When he opened the door, he says a large African-American woman, wearing a black leather jacket and black jeans, pushed her way in, found his wallet next to the bed, and took more than $500.

Pankul Mathur Mathur (left), a native of India who was part of a flight crew staying overnight at Hotel 71, now the Wyndham Grand Chicago Riverfront, says he tried to call the hotel operator but the woman yanked away the cord connecting the handset to the base of the telephone. Out in the hallway on the 15th floor, Mathur says he screamed that he had been robbed but a housekeeper responded it was “not my job to call the police.”

Down in the lobby, full of people and within earshot of diners at Hoyt’s, Mathur says his pleas for help were met with more indifference, a claim the hotel denies.

He sued in Cook County Circuit Court for $50,000 on July 16 but on October 8, the case was moved to U.S. District Court and now Mathur wants $75,000.

The unnamed housekeeper was an accomplice, Mathur believes, based on a comment he is alleged to have made about backing up a claim by the woman that Mathur had called her for prostitution “and was not paying so I am just taking his money.”

He says he got no help from employees of the hotel, including security guards who according to Mathur, followed the woman out the hotel for a few steps, then returned, saying they could not stop her because she was no longer on hotel property. It took him ten minutes, he says, to convince the hotel’s chief concierge, Ben Nelson, to help him call police. When police did arrive, Mathur says the hotel refused to produce the housekeeper who spoke with the woman outside his room.

The entire incident, some of which shows up on security video, played out in less than six minutes. The woman has not been located.

The next day, Mathur and other Air India employees met at Hotel 71 with Randy Herring, the hotel’s security director, who according to Mathur told the group his security staff “handled the case badly.”

The hotel denies Herring said that but confirms the meeting took place.

(Right) Wyndham Hotel Group’s Global Conference in Las Vegas on October 7, 2013.

Wyndham Hotel Group

Hotel denies involvement in any crime, says Mathur was negligent

Mathur is suing Wyndham Hotel Management, based in Parsippany, New Jersey, and Hospitality Properties Trust, a publicly traded real estate investment trust based in Newtown, Massachusetts. HPT purchased Hotel 71 in November 2012. The hotel re-opened as a Wyndham on June 12, 2013.

Responding to the complaint on October 15, Wyndham and HPT denied any of its employees were involved with any crime, or refused to help Mathur call police or locate the housekeeper.

According to the hotel, it was Mathur who was careless by allowing a stranger into his room in the first place. It is the mysterious woman who entered Mathur’s room – then disappeared onto Wacker Drive – who is to blame, they argue.

Sanjay Shivpuri of Chuhak & Tecson represents Mathur. Ann MacDonald of Schiff Hardin is representing the defendants. The case was assigned to Honorable Sharon Johnson Coleman.

The senior manager of public relations for Wyndham Hotel Group has declined to comment.

Read the complaint and Wyndham’s response…

By Steven Dahlman | Loop North News | sdahlman@loopnorth.com

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