9 Investigates sex offenders living in motels on U.S. 192



OSCEOLA COUNTY, Fla. - An online ad for the Chalet Motel along U.S. Highway 192 in Osceola County boasts that it is "minutes away from major attractions" like Disney World.

But Channel 9's Greg Warmoth discovered what the ad doesn't say is that more than a dozen sex offenders and predators list the motel as their permanent address with state authorities.

At the same time, a WFTV cameraman recently found a young girl riding a bike in the motel's parking lot, at times, unsupervised.

Warmoth confronted the Chalet's owner, Mounera Halo, and asked why she rents to registered sex offenders.

"Why do I rent to them?" she asked. "I am here to rent to anybody."

Halo said law enforcement officials send the sex offenders her way. She also noted earlier this month that there was only one family living in her establishment.

Also living there is Francis Morse, a man convicted on three counts of lewd or lascivious exhibition with a victim under age 16.

"Are you being monitored by the state at all?" asked Warmoth.

"No," Morse responded.

But Channel 9 checked the Florida Department of Law Enforcement's database, and it shows Morse is being supervised by the state Department of Corrections.

Halo said she told the one family about the sex offenders at the Chalet, but one resident, who didn't want to be identified, said he didn't know they were living there.

"They didn't inform you?" Warmoth asked.

"No," the resident replied.

"Do you ever see children around here?" Warmoth asked.

"Yes, bicycles and stuff," the man said.

Another woman living at the motel said the state should be notifying residents about the sex offenders living there.

But the Chalet Motel isn't alone. Channel 9 logged onto the FDLE offender website and found 41 sex offenders living in motels along U.S. 192.

Among those men, 38 were convicted for crimes against children.

But other renters, many times, aren't told.

The Amber Inn and Suites, also on U.S. 192, has two sex offenders living there, according to the state records.

One of them is Randy Noppert, who was convicted of two counts of lewd and lascivious behavior involving a child under 16 and possession of child porn.

"I own the hotel, and it is not my responsibility to tell the guests checking in about somebody else's past," hotel owner Tammy Miller told Warmoth.

Miller said their criminal pasts are part of the public record, which anyone can find on their own.

Miller is right. Channel 9 checked, and the state said owners are not required to tell their guests who is living in other rooms on the premises.

However, motel owner Diana Chane, who has 900 units along U.S. 192, said she feels it's their obligation. She said this should be a moral decision and not a financial consideration.

"Turning the other cheek and saying, 'I'm going to put a family here and I'm going to put a sex offender here, and say it's not anybody's business,' is irresponsible," Chane said.

But who is responsible? The Osceola County Sheriff's Office said its hands are tied.

"As long as they (registered sex offenders) are compliant with state statutes and local county ordinances and they are abiding by their probation, law enforcement does not have the authority to regulate where sex offenders choose to live," said Osceola County Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Twis Lizasuain.

In a traditional neighborhood, child sex offenders on probation must not live within 1,000 feet of areas where children congregate, such as a bus stop. But Warmoth found 18 stops on U.S. 192, some right in front of hotels where registered offenders live.

If the offenders were there first, however, they're not violating the law.

Still, the proximity worries local social workers, including Mary Downey.

"It's scary when you know that four school buses stop at one hotel and when you just think about that, it is just terrifying," said Downey, deputy director of the Community Hope Center.