By Samuel Elliott Novacich, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The five-star Hotel Santa Teresa was the target of a planned robbery in the early morning of Monday, July 18th, when four armed bandits scaled an exterior wall and systematically ransacked rooms and held hotel guests at gunpoint. Security cameras captured video of the men invading the hotel at approximately 3:20AM, wearing hoods to conceal their identity.
The masks were not enough to prevent hotel workers from recognizing one of the men as a former employee though. According to police, the identification was made based on stature and other features.
Another accomplice not taking measures to hide his identity was later described to a police sketch artist, who has divulged a photo of the individual.
According to Lieutenant-Colonel Edilson de Moraes Filho of the 5th BPM (Military Police Battalion), the group cut power to several internal network security cameras. Other cameras that were left undamaged show the robbers scaling a wall as they initially broke in to the establishment, and later escaping in a Chevrolet Celta.
The men were armed with pistols and remained in the hotel for approximately an hour and a half. A witness who preferred to remain anonymous reported that a fifth accomplice remained outside during the robbery, positioned up the street as a lookout.
According to hotel officials, several guests have left the hotel, though they are unsure if the former guests have left Rio de Janeiro, or simply relocated to other hotels in the city.
Among victims of the robbery were foreign guests, some of whom were in Rio de Janeiro to participate in the World Military Games. The hotel has reported that at the time of the incident, approximately 70 percent of the hotel was occupied by guests.
Though hotel security is substantial – 48 infra-red security cameras and a private security team – it was not enough to prevent the group from robbing approximately fifteen guests.
The hotel is located less than 100 meters from both both military and municipal police posts. While Santa Teresa has sat enveloped by a number of favelas, in February a much publicized UPP installation moved into the area without conflict, adding to the sense of security in the popular bohemian neighborhood.
One Santa Teresa resident, preferring to remain anonymous, reported “I believe it was an inside job. These things are always inside jobs; you have to know where the cameras are, what the lay out is… There is a lot of money in that hotel.”
In an official press release, hotel authorities have announced, “our guests are safe, thanks to our security team that prioritized their well-being.”
The hotel has also expressed thanks to the police, stating that they, “have done a great job collecting valuable information and we have all the reasons to believe we will find the responsible for this act very shortly.”
The luxury Hotel Santa Teresa, located on Rua Almirante Alexandrino 660, is relatively new to the community. It opened its doors in September of 2008, and has since been considered one of the best places to stay in Santa Teresa, if not Rio, hosting celebrities like Amy Winehouse early this year.
Authorities have reported that the hotel has returned to normal activity, and is once again taking reservations.