ST. LOUIS – A Tulsa businessman tells FOX 2 that he’s the victim of a St. Louis high-dollar jewelry heist.
Detectives with the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department confirmed more than $400,000 worth of watches were stolen from the man’s hotel room at the Embassy Suites near America’s Center in downtown St. Louis.
“I’m going to be honest with you. I believe this was planned,” Rion Woodiest said. “I really believe this was some kind of jewelry heist.”
Woodiest grew up in East St. Louis, Illinois, until his family relocated to Tulsa when he was in high school. After serving seven years in the Army, he went into business four years ago.
He sells high-end jewelry, including gold, platinum, and diamond watches.
The five stolen watches were Cartier, Rolex, and Audemar Piquet models.
The Embassy Suites hotel was like a second home, he said.
Woodiest has stayed there more than 600 nights in recent years as he travels for his three businesses: jewelry sales in Tulsa and Atlanta, plus a discount shop Belleville, Illinois.
“(The hotel staff) know me on a first-name basis,” he said.
On the night of March 23, Woodiest left his shop in Belleville and headed back to the hotel. He was leaving the next day for Atlanta to deliver five watches. When he got to his room, he said the door was open and a woman was inside.
“She went frantic. She said, ‘Why are you in my room?’ I was like, ‘No ma’am, you’re in my room,’” Woodiest said.
He thought he had extended his stay, but hotel staff gave his room to somebody else and stored his belongings in a storage room, he said. He admitted perhaps his customer loyalty and familiarity with the staff made him too trusting, leaving the watches in his room.
“I came back, everything was out of the room, and the watches were gone. They said they packed up the room and they specifically put my watches inside of my coat pocket,” he said.
Police confirmed hotel staff reported packing the watches with the rest of his things, but they were not in any of his suit coat pockets.
Woodiest said he searched his belongings several times, as did police and hotel staffers. The watches were never found.
Though he said he and hotel management pursued an insurance claim, Woodiest received a letter this week from hotel’s insurer saying they were not liable for the losses.
It gets even worse.
“That morning, my truck had gotten broken into (on the hotel parking lot),” he said.
Nothing was stolen from his truck, he said.
Police report no arrests.
Woodiest is considering legal action against the hotel, hoping to recoup his massive losses.
Hotel officials did not answer questions or consent to an interview.
A spokesperson for Hilton, which operates Embassy Suites, issued the following statement:
“We can confirm a report of an alleged theft incident at Embassy Suites St. Louis in March 2023. The well-being, safety and security of our guests are of paramount importance, and we continue to make every effort to ensure all practices and standards are in line with strict safety and security regulations. At the time of the incident, we worked closely with the local police department and cooperated fully with their investigation.”Hilton statement