The Diaz and Lopez families in Miami have found their lives upside down after they purchased a cruise on Royal Caribbean's Majesty of the Seas.
The story begins with Maidal Diaz calling the 1 - 800 number on the cruise line's web page. She selects a cruise for her family and completes the on line booking information which requires her to disclose her family's address, telephone number and private financial information.
When the nine family members return from the three day cruise, they were shocked to find that their homes had been broken into and burglarized. The crooks stole thousands of dollars of personal belongings, jewelry, electronics and sentimental items. Even more importantly, the brazen burglary violated the families' sense of security and peace of mind. Both families have small children. Ms. Diaz's daughter was so traumatized that she could not sleep in the home and had to stay with her grandparents for a week. She now sleeps with her parents.
The shock and fear turned to anger when the families learned that they were not victims of a random crime. Instead, they had been targeted by career criminals based on information released to Royal Caribbean when they booked their cruises.
As we discussed two weeks ago in Royal Caribbean Vacation Planner and Husband Arrested For Burglarizing 24 Homes While Residents Were On Cruises, a cruise line employee is behind the burglaries. Bethsaida Sandoval, repeatedly entered the Royal Caribbean offices, logged onto the computers at odd hours of the night, and canvassed the database to find addresses in South Florida of families who were going on cruises. She then shared the information with her husband, John Lopez, who broke into the homes with accomplices while the families were on Royal Caribbean cruises.
What is particularly disturbing to the Diaz and Lopez families is that these criminals staked out their homes. When the Palm Beach Sheriffs' office finally arrested Sandoval and her husband, they found evidence that the crooks had observed the families' activities over the course of several days and taken notes about the family and even the children.
Both families have taken steps to install extra security to try and regain a sense of privacy and protection. But this has come at a financial and emotional price. The family members remain shaken by the thought of being targeted by crooks who walked around their homes and picked and chose what to steal - just because the families bought a Royal Caribbean cruise.
Perhaps even more upsetting is that the cruise line never bothered to contact them. Frustrated after two weeks of trying to determine the extent of their losses, the families contacted our office and explained what happened and the toil this has taken on them.
We quickly agreed to help them free of charge.
After we wrote to the cruise line security and legal departments, Royal Caribbean responded by claiming that it had no knowledge that the families had been on a Royal Caribbean cruise or that they had been burglarized.
This is hard to believe. If it's true, it reveals that the cruise line's security and legal departments remain sound asleep at the wheel.
Both families were interviewed on television by local CBS-4 in Miami. The video remains posted on the CBS-4 website. The report from the Palm Beach Sheriff's office, which identifies their residences, is also posted on line. And Ms. Lopez even used to work for Royal Caribbean!
The cruise line also denied any legal responsibility - stating:
"Royal Caribbean denies the allegations in your letter concerning any alleged legal liability. The employee involved in this scheme was subjected to a criminal background check, and she received training on company policies related to confidentiality and ethical use of information she had access to as an employee."
A background check? Newspapers report that Royal Caribbean employee Sandoval has a criminal record - including theft and forgery - and she was married to a career criminal. So what type of background check did the cruise line conduct?
And how does an employer train a criminal like this? Does Royal Caribbean have any safeguards in place to protect its customer’s personal information from criminals?
The cruise line won't say, but we will be following the story. Have other cruise passengers burglarized while on Royal Caribbean cruises been treated like this?
Leave a comment below with you thoughts . . .
Video and photographs MY 33 / CBS-4 Miami