A local sponsored skier was arrested Friday and faces a class 4 felony and class 1 misdemeanor charges from an alleged incident at the Limelight Hotel Aspen dating back to September.
Andrew Benaquista, 30, is facing felony identity theft and misdemeanor theft of between $750 and $2,000 after allegedly racking up an $1,800 bill at the Aspen hotel on a visiting woman’s credit card without her permission.
Benaquista, described in a police report as “a 30-something-year-old male who is homeless and had been crashing with friends at the time,” allegedly spent the night of Sept. 28 at a Limelight Hotel Aspen room occupied by two women who were visiting from Denver.
The next morning, the report continues, he offered to check one of the women — the alleged victim — out of the room. She accepted the offer, and she and her friend returned home that day, the report states.
According to invoices obtained by Aspen police from the hotel — which confirm the initially authorized Sept. 28 arrival — rather than checking out, the victim’s credit card was instead charged for an additional four nights at $300 per night, after accounting for lodging taxes and resort fees.
Additionally, six separate meals from the hotel lounge averaging more than $50 per charge appeared on the invoices, as well as an in-room movie for $19.99.
The victim first contacted Aspen police about the fraudulent charges in March, when she told investigating officers that she had not found recourse with her bank or the hotel in reversing the charges. Benaquista subsequently visited the victim in her home in Denver, according to a police report, at which time she confronted him about additional, unauthorized charges to her credit card.
“She said Benaquista brushed it off and told her it was really strange and maybe the hotel made a mistake,” the report says. “[The victim] believes Benaquista has a relationship with the Limelight lodge. She has seen his face in Limelight ads.”
The hotel manager that provided the invoices and has been generally assisting police with the investigation did not know of any modeling contract between Benaquista and the lodging facility, the report continues. However, Benaquista — who counts Fischer Sports, The Ski Monster, Atomic Skis, Oakley, and Leki among his former sponsors as an alpine athlete — has appeared in Aspen Magazine’s 2018-19 “Insider’s Guide” and Freeskier Magazine.
In a followup report made in May, Aspen police officer Roderick O’Connor, who wrote the arrest summons for Benaquista, noted that the hotel manager told him the server who waited on Benaquista during his stay may remember him.
“He said he believed she would remember serving the meals to [the victim’s] unit. The male made an impression on her due to his belonging to some ski team or something related,” O’Connor reported.
Despite numerous attempts to contact Benaquista — including tracking down information for his former employer, family members, landlords and the probation department in the monthslong investigation into the alleged theft — it wasn’t until last Tuesday that Benaquista began communicating with O’Connor through a phone call and a series of emails.
Despite promises that he would come into the police department to sign a felony court summons, Benaquista did not follow through on those assurances, O’Connor wrote. Finally, another officer who “had a good rapport with Benaquista from a previous incident” texted him, and the next day, O’Connor learned from the night shift on Friday that Benaquista had signed the summons the previous night.
Benaquista is scheduled to appear in Pitkin County District Court on July 20.