SIX MONTHS AFTER losing a deal to develop a Trump Hotels brand hotel, Dinesh Chawla, president of Cleveland, Mississippi-based Chawla Hotels, has been arrested on charges he stole luggage from other passengers at the Memphis airport. According to a police report, Chawla told officers he took the bags, as he had taken others, for the “thrill and excitement.”
Chawla was arrested Aug. 22, two days after officers with the Memphis International Airport Police Department impounded his vehicle to search it for a bag another passenger had reported missing. Police saw Chawla on surveillance video taking the bag from a baggage claim carousel and placing it in his van. He was taken into custody after his plane landed on his return to Memphis.
“During questioning, Mr. Chawla admitted to stealing both bags that were recovered in his SUV,” the police report says. “Mr. Chawla also stated that he has been taking luggage from bag belts over a long period of time. Chawla stated that he is no longer in possession of previously stolen bags, as he discards them in various locations. Mr. Chawla stated to officer that he knows stealing luggage is wrong, but he does it for the thrill and excitement.”
Chawla was later released on $5,000 bond and has a court date scheduled for Friday, according to Mississippi Clarion Ledger newspaper.
In February, Trump Hotels, citing political pressure, pulled its plans to build the first of two new brands in Cleveland, Mississippi, a Scion and two American Ideas. Dinesh and his brother Suresh had already started construction on the Scion. But the brothers seemed to take the news in stride at the time.
“We’re fine financially. We’re on schedule to open this fall,” Dinesh Chawla said in a Facebook post at the time announcing the decision of two other brothers, Don Jr. and Eric Trump, to pull out of their multimillion dollar project, though the Chawlas appear to be carrying it through. “You guys see all the whirlwind of activity out there on the construction site. With a bit less rain, we’d be cranking it even more.”
Chawla Hotels operates 17 hotels and motels in Mississippi. In an official statement in February, Dinesh and Suresh Chawla said they completely understood the Trumps’ position and they “hope that when the time is right, we can work with Trump Hotels again.”
Regardless, Dinesh Chawla said at the time the split with Trump Hotels was never discussed in negative tones, and he learned many innovations and new processes from them.
“My kids were disappointed. They were excited that Papa had made the big time,” Chawla wrote on his Facebook post. “I’m still going to get there. But my route is a bit more serpentine than before. And I’m looking forward to the journey.”
Dinesh Chawla also is listed as international director of development and strategy at Lewes, Delaware-based Innovasis Hotels, a start-up that plans to build sustainable hotels using modular construction in resort and urban locations around the world.