KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The owner of an abandoned Kansas City hotel is now apparently living in South America, potentially leaving taxpayers on the hook for demolition costs estimated at $1.5 million.
The 41 Action News Investigators found a Facebook page former employees confirm belongs to the hotel owner Andrew Marin.
Kansas City government leaders have been trying to find Marin because of the mess he left behind, including an unpaid water bill of roughly $150,000 and a dangerous mess in its lot near I-435 and Front Street.
The 41 Action News Investigators met Jaime James as she returned to the former Howard Johnson for the first time since losing her job as the sales director there nearly a year ago when the hotel abruptly closed its doors.
James not only worked at the hotel, she was married in its ballroom in 2015.
That ballroom and the rest of the hotel has been destroyed by looters and vagrants.
"So that's not something for us to come back and be able to reminisce about and bring our kids back," James said.
When the hotel closed, she said owner Andrew Marin owed a lot of people money. They included vendors, city utilities and guests who paid deposit money for rooms they would never use.
"All of a sudden, his phone number was disconnected, his Facebook was gone, everything was like he vanished and nobody could find him," James said.
She says Marin did attempt to sell the hotel to investors but James said when the deal collapsed, Marin decided to simply shut down and not return.
According to Marin's new Facebook page, he now lives in Vitoria, Brazil, more than 5,400 miles from Kansas City. His last post on that page is from a July birthday party.
The 41 Action News Investigators also obtained a picture showing Marin's liquor license in Kansas City which is listed under the name Abraham Marin. James says Marin's real name is Abraham, but he goes by Andrew.
She also says Wyndham Hotels pulled the Ramada flag from the facility more than a year before it ultimately closed due to its poor condition.
But Wyndham did give Marin a Howard Johnson franchise to replace the lost Ramada flag.
"I don't think Wyndham probably had any knowledge of — unfortunately — what was happening," James said.
A Wyndham spokesman told the 41 Action News Investigators the company's relationship with the hotel ended last September but declined further comment.
"I hated this place, it was disgusting quite honestly," said former hotel employee Chelsea Zapien.
Zapien quit her desk clerk job at the hotel five years ago when she says Marin refused to take care of water leak, cockroach and bedbug problems.
She says Marin would drink at the hotel bar all day, hired undocumented immigrants, wouldn't pay employees overtime and would pay his water bill only when the water was about to be shut off.
"That was every month, that's how we paid the water bill," Zapien said.
She also says Marin booked a swingers convention at the same time he had soccer parents staying at the hotel with their young children.
Zapien said those swingers would occupy entire floors and the ballroom and would walk around the hotel without clothes.
"If these kids are on the elevator and it stops on 6 and opens, they get an eyeful," she said.
Video from the 41 Action News Skyhawk and pictures a source provided show the hotel has not only been stripped of anything valuable, it's also dangerous.
Last November, 55-year-old John Carroll was found dead in an elevator shaft.
City records show the hotel had a long history of failed elevator inspections, including the last one in July 2015.
"I think it's a shame that he (Marin) got out of here before anybody came in to confront him about it," Zapien said.
"Unfortunately, you know, he kind of screwed everybody over in the end," James said.
City leaders plan to sue Marin to recover the costs of the hotel demolition and unpaid water bill. However, Marin's hotel was actually owned by a limited liability corporation (LLC), which could make it more difficult for the city to get that money back.