Some lose more than their shirt at casinos - Sunday 23rd of October 2005

Cell phones galore, enough eyeglasses to open an optical store, car and house keys, new clothing with the sales tags still attached, suitcases, wallets full of cash, dentures, jewelry.

In the nine years Ojeda has run the lost-and-found room at the Trump Marina Hotel Casino, just about every imaginable item has passed through the room adjacent to the coat-check area. Recently, more than 1,000 items - each in its own plastic bag - filled the space about the size of a small bedroom.

"Theres very little that would surprise me," said Ojeda, director of housekeeping and public areas for Trump Marina.

One man even left a prosthetic arm at the casino, Ojeda said.

"He called right away, but how do you forget something like that?" he said.

Yes, people forget all sorts of things when they travel. But given the "always turned on" glitz of Atlantic City, some items forgotten in the excitement of gambling and the blur of too much alcohol can be quite interesting.

A couple of dozen canes filled one box at the lost-and-found, and an abandoned wheelchair sat at the entrance.

Even after all these years, Ojeda cant understand how someone can enter a casino in a wheelchair and leave without it.

The number of wheelchairs, walkers and canes left behind has led some lost-and-found managers to quip that the gaming halls must have more miraculous cures than Lourdes.

Not everyone who loses money in a casino does so at the slots and tables, Ojeda said. Trump Marina employees have turned in wallets with several thousand dollars in cash, and they were returned to their owners. If another player finds the money first, theres a good chance the owner never sees it again.

When Ojeda was working at another casino, an employee found a paper grocery bag stuffed with $98,000 in cash in the rest room, he said. She turned it in to security, and the owner did come back for it.

Not only the casinos

People riding the resorts little blue buses leave cell phones, purses, book bags and wallets, said a woman who answered the phone at the Atlantic City Jitney Association. The drivers dont find a lot of items, and most of these get returned to their owners.

As the NJ Transit train pulls into the Atlantic City station, a pre-recorded announcement reminds passengers to take all their personal belongings. Still, conductors find two or three items a week left behind, ticket agent Robert DeCicco said.

Umbrellas were forgotten during last weeks rain, and conductors also find cell phones, purses and wallets, DeCicco said. Clothing and keys are common finds.

Sorting it out

Guests who leave something in a hotel room at Trump Marina can expect a call telling them it was found and turned in, Ojeda said.

If the item in question is found in a public area, it gets numbered, tagged and entered into the computer with the date it was found. That way, when the customer returns to retrieve it, the object can be located immediately.

After 45 days, longer for more valuable things such as jewelry, if the owner hasnt come or called for the item, the employee who found it gets first dibs on it, Ojeda said. After that, anything thats left goes to local charities.

Sometimes, if a guest loses a pair of glasses, the staff will let them try several unclaimed pairs to see if the match is good enough to let them drive home. It usually doesnt work out, Ojeda said.

If a guest doesnt plan to return to Trump Marina for several months, Ojeda said, his staff would note it on the tag and save it for the next visit.

Sometimes the casino ships lost items back to guests, but the customer has to pay for the shipping, Ojeda said. One man left a clipboard, worth about $5, and was willing to pay $11 to have it sent to his home. It was his favorite and he didnt want to part with it.

NJ Transit keeps found items at the ticket window in the Atlantic City terminal for a month or so, DeCicco said. After that, they go to the headquarters in Newark.

Some items found at Trump Marina never make their way home, Ojeda said.

There are embarrassing intimate items that people never call to claim and the casino doesnt keep, Ojeda said. Illegal drugs get turned over to security, he said.

Food left in the room is immediately thrown in the trash, Ojeda said. So if you couldnt finish that $38 filet mignon you ordered at Harbor View, dont forget the doggie bag when you check out.

"One guy really went off because he left a partial salami and cheese that he brought from New York," Ojeda said. "He was upset because we tossed it out."

And for those whose inquiring minds just have to know: Donald Trump has never left anything behind from his overnight stays, Ojeda said.

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