ST. GEORGE — A local man is in custody on theft by deception charges after a relative of the suspect agreed to rent him a hotel room for the night, and more than a week later the relative discovered they were still paying for the room – fees that only stopped stopped once the suspect was arrested and booked into a room at the county jail.
According to the probable cause statement filed in support of the arrest, officers responded to a fraud call Sunday shortly after 1 p.m. and learned from the reporting party that several hundred dollars in motel room fees were charged on her bank card.
The caller explained to police that weeks before, she had been contacted by the suspect, 58-year-old Lawrence Thomas Druce, who said he needed a place to stay for the night, at which point the relative agreed to rent him a motel room for a single night.
The relative also said she was hesitant to provide any financial information to Druce, so instead she contacted the motel directly and booked the room using her bank card. The police statement states that the relative also made it clear to the motel that she was authorizing a charge for a single night only at the time the accommodations were arranged.
One week later, however, the relative began receiving bank statements that outlined motel charges totaling more than $470, an amount that was charged twice over the past 10 days.
The officer wrote in his statement that the relative said when she contacted the motel to inquire about the fees, the manager told her they had billed the additional nights after Druce told hotel staff that his relative had “told him it was okay for him to stay another night and to charge the card again.”
Officers contacted the motel and learned that Druce was still a guest and were provided the room number where he was staying, but when they arrived they found the room empty other than two dogs that were inside and unattended.
Knowing the suspect would likely return to retrieve the animals, officers asked the hotel staff to notify them through emergency dispatched as soon as the suspect returned. A background check conducted in the interim revealed several active warrants for Druce’s arrest, including one felony warrant issued out of Salt Lake County.
Hotel staff called emergency dispatch shortly after to report that Druce had returned and was in the hotel lobby, which is where officers found him minutes later exiting through the lobby door. The suspect allegedly continued into the parking lot and got into a white pickup truck, but by then officers caught up with him and ordered him out of the vehicle.
The suspect was handcuffed and detained on the warrants, the report states. Druce reportedly told officers that his relative had paid for a three-night stay, and he went on to say he had advised the hotel staff to charge the bank card “for the entire stay.”
The officer told Druce that even if the relative had approved a 3-night stay, he still remained in the room for another five nights after that.
At that point Druce “continued to argue and would not accept the situation,” the officer noted, at which point he was transported to Purgatory Correctional Facility facing theft by deception and unauthorized use of a financial card.
He was also charged with driving on a suspended license since the white pickup truck officers found him in was running at the time, in addition to earlier reports from witnesses who saw him driving near the hotel.
“I have no doubt that Lawrence knows his license is suspended,” the officer wrote at the time of the arrest.
He was also booked on the warrant issued out of Salt Lake County involving a case filed in September of last year. In that case, Druce is accused of allegedly pawning a Honda dirt bike at a pawn shop in Draper that had been reported as stolen.
When he failed to appear for a scheduled hearing, a $10,000 warrant was issued for his arrest.
The suspect was formally charged with the offenses following Sunday’s arrest.
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