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Pit Boss Fired for Reporting Runaway Bride

24 June 2005

Las Vegas Sun

by Eric Leake

LAS VEGAS -- A former Treasure Island pit boss said he was trying to do the right thing when he told the media he had seen Jennifer Wilbanks, the infamous runaway bride, in the casino.

Instead he lost his job.

Frank Sidoris, 41, said he was working an otherwise normal shift on the casino floor when he saw whom he believed to be Wilbanks walk by three times around 10 p.m. the night before she was found.

"I felt for sure it was her right when I saw her because it looked just like her. She was walking aimlessly around the casino," he said.

"I went with the probabilities and thought there's no way this missing girl from Georgia is walking in a Las Vegas casino so casual."

Sidoris said it was not until the next day, when he heard that Wilbanks -- the woman who captured TV headlines after she went missing less than a week before her wedding day -- had been found in New Mexico, that he felt certain he had seen her. He decided to e-mail Fox News and was later interviewed over the phone.

"I thought I'd send an e-mail -- even though she's safe and everybody's fine -- if her family was wondering where she was for four or five days," Sidoris said.

"When I went to work, I thought I was going to be employee of the month."

But Sidoris was suspended and subsequently fired.

MGM Mirage spokesman Alan Feldman said he could not comment on Sidoris's termination as it is a personnel issue.

He instead cited "a long-standing policy in our company and our industry to fiercely protect the privacy of our guests and customers and to not release any information whether that information is real or imagined."

Sidoris said he saw Wilbanks the night before she was found. On the morning of April 30, she called her finance and talked to police in Albuquerque.

Wilbanks was traveling by bus. By Greyhound, the quickest trip from Las Vegas to Albuquerque would take 12 hours, 25 minutes, according to the bus line's schedule.

At the time Sidoris spotted the woman he thought was Wilbanks, police were looking for her thinking she was a missing person. It later turned out she had just run away a week before her wedding.

Feldman said if an employee sees somebody sought by law enforcement, they should contact a supervisor, who would then call security and the authorities.

Feldman said he could not think of a situation in which an employee should go first to the media. That could even hamper or confuse efforts, he said.

Sidoris said he is still surprised by the company's response. He said he thought the publicity would be welcomed.

"I thought, man, are they're going to be so happy. Not only does it say Treasure Island on TV on national media, it promotes a good image," he said.

He said the company told him he was fired for behavior detrimental to the reputation of the hotel.

Sidoris did not first call police or the company, he said, because he did not feel certain that he saw Wilbanks until he saw the TV news.

In a television interview on NBC, Wilbanks, of Duluth, Ga., said she did spend some time in Las Vegas but did not mention the Treasure Island.

Sidoris said he regrets the loss of his job and that if given the opportunity again he would act differently.

"I wouldn't let it jeopardize me or my job."

Sidoris said the only good to come out of ordeal was that he and his 16-year-old son had the time to travel to Arizona for the Alice Cooper Celebrity Golf Tournament.

Incidentally, he said he also saw Sept. 11 hijacker Mohamed Atta in August 2001 in the casino, a sighting he later reported to the FBI.

Sedoris is now looking for a new pit boss job, perhaps outside the MGM Mirage family.

"I can't imagine anybody not wanting to hire somebody that's got great eyesight and is very aware of his surroundings," he said. "That's what the job is all about."

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