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Motels housing dozens of sex offenders, not telling guests

9:08 PM, Sep 21, 2011   |    comments
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Motels are not legally obligated to tell you who is staying in the room next door, even if that person is a registered sex offender. There are no laws in Colorado restricting where sex offenders can live, although guidelines may be established by the court in individual cases.

9Wants to Know found some motels are housing 10 or even 20 offenders, and not disclosing that information to other guests. We also interviewed a sex offender staying at one of those motels, who told us he would not feel safe having his own children stay there.

"My name is George," he said. "I'm 43. I grew up in Minnesota and since I've moved to Colorado I've been in trouble. I can't seem to get out of the cycle."

On the road of life, George has taken plenty of wrong turns. Now he feels he has hit a dead end. When he spoke to 9Wants to Know in June, he had recently been released from prison on parole and was required to register as a sex offender. He asked 9NEWS not to use his last name.

"I have [a charge of] attempted sexual assault on a minor which resulted from an Internet sting," George said.

George was chatting with an undercover police officer who claimed to be a 14-year-old girl. He served two years and three months before his early release. The Colorado Department of Corrections provided him with vouchers to cover his housing costs for two months, giving him time to look for a job.

"They put me in a motel," George said. "They put us in a high-crime area."

At the time of our interview in June, George was living in The Carriage Motor Inn on East Colfax Avenue and Yosemite Street.

"There are crack dealers up and down the street and there's all kinds of craziness going on," Mary Elise Filipy said.

Filipy used to work at another Colfax hotel, the Newhouse, on East Colfax and Grant Street, directly across from the State Capitol.

Filipy says the Newhouse is filled with felons on parole, including sex offenders.

"They had been in jail for child molestation, for rape," Filipy said.

9Wants to Know first reported about the Newhouse in June, when a guest complained that they had not been told about all the sex offenders staying there.

A recent search of the Colorado Sex Offender Database found 11 sex offenders who registered the Newhouse as their home address.

We also found 10 registered sex offenders at the Sand and Sage motel at East Colfax and Wabash Street, 14 at the Shepherd's motel at East Colfax and Valentia Street, and 21 at the Carriage Motor Inn.

A State of Colorado voucher shows the state paid $180 per week for George's motel room, which amounted to $1,440 for two months.

"They picked the motel," George said. "They told me where I was going before I even got out."

Chris Lobanov-Rostovsky, program manager for the Colorado Sex Offender management board, says the state is doing the best it can to provide housing and support for Colorado's 14,600 registered sex offenders.

He says, ideally, all offenders would be placed in a "halfway house" environment or shared living arrangement. However, bed space is limited and many landlords won't rent to convicted felons, let alone sex offenders.

"It's a tough balancing act," Lobanov-Rostovsky said. "Parole has to make decisions in terms of who to put where."

Lobanov-Rostovsky estimates a small percentage of sex offenders eventually become homeless after they are released from prison because they cannot find a job or housing.

"The state is doing the best it can to try and monitor these offenders and protect the community and keep citizens safe," Lobanov-Rostovsky said. "We're trying to help an offender to be successful, and to be successful we mean to not re-offend and to live a law-abiding life."

"Other neighborhoods don't want them, so they're kind of left with no other alternative," Filipy said. "Where are they going to go?"

Filipy thinks the hotels housing offenders have a responsibility to alert potential guests, especially those with children.

"I personally believe that people have a right to know and to be aware of their surroundings," Filipy said.

When a new manager took over, Filipy says she quit her job as a front desk clerk.

"I was told that I was no longer allowed to tell people that we had sex offenders staying in the hotel," Filipy said. "And if families with children wanted to stay there that would be OK too."

9Wants to Know left several messages with Filipy's former manager. We have not yet received a call back.

Two 9NEWS staffers went undercover with a young child to see what really happens when a family tries to check-in.

The clerk at the Newhouse told us as soon as we walked-in: The hotel is not safe for children.

"Just between you and me, you don't want to have a kid in this building," he said. "There's a lot of felons here and stuff."

It was a different story at the three other motels we visited undercover.

A worker at the Carriage Inn told us the motel was OK for kids, in spite of the 21 sex offenders registered there.

At the Shepherd motel, a clerk told us they did not accept vouchers from the Department of Corrections, and even mentioned how "other" motels would accept convicts.

"It's all about them getting their money," she said, never mentioning the 14 sex offenders registered at the motel.

The manager of the Sand and Sage told us it was a great place for kids, in spite of the 10 sex offenders registered there.

We returned to the hotels with a 9NEWS camera and received various explanations.

Soo Kim, who identified herself as the wife of the Carriage Inn owner, told us they normally turn families away and the clerk who helped us was just filling in.

"She's not a manager," Kim said.

Orlando Martinez Jr., son of the Shepherd motel owner, said his clerk did nothing wrong.

"That's your responsibility to keep an eye on your kids," Martinez said.

Joseph Rivers, manager of the Sand and Sage, said he didn't know there were sex offenders at his motel.

He told us he would disclose information about sex offenders to guests with children.

"Because it's their right to know," Rivers said.

George says motels full of sex offenders are no place for children.

"I see kids running around the parking lot," George said. "If it was my kids I wouldn't want them running around. Because I know who's there."

(KUSA-TV © 2011 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)

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