The “Desert Inn” sign came down Thursday from the iconic beachside hotel that’s now being renovated into a four-star Hard Rock Hotel.
Built in the 1950s and expanded significantly the following decade, the hotel was once a draw for conventions and high school proms and was known as a Spring Break hot spot. It fell on hard times before its purchase in 2013 by Summit Hospitality Group, which is overseeing the renovations.
In 2011, the Desert Inn showed up on travel website TripAdvisor’s list of the “dirtiest hotels” in America. That same year, the son of the former owner was sentenced to federal prison on a child pornography conviction.
Summit hopes hopes to open the property as a Hard Rock in the fall. A deal with Volusia County to remove cars from the beach behind the hotel requires that the renovation be completed by Dec. 31.
A Daytona Beach hotel where a 13-year-old boy was paid to pose for sexually explicit photos has been sold and more than $1.5 million in proceeds forfeited to the government, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said Monday.
The Desert Inn Resort, ranked by TripAdvisor two years ago as the third-dirtiest hotel in the country, was where Dennis Brian Devlin, 60, and Michael Ehmen, 23, in January 2011 persuaded the boy to disrobe and pose for videos and still photos, prosecutors said.
Devlin, son of the then-owner, paid Ehmen to bring the boy to the hotel and have sex while Devlin took the photos and video, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said. The boy received $60 and Ehmen $80 for one of two days of posing, documents show.
Federal agents found images of the boy on an iPod hidden in the ceiling of Devlin’s bathroom along with CDs and DVDs of child pornography.
Devlin, who lived at and managed the hotel, pleaded guilty in April 2011 to sexual exploitation of a child. He was sentenced in July to 15 years in prison.
Ehmen, a friend of the boy’s family, was sentenced in August 2011 to seven years in prison followed by 180 days of house arrest and 20 years of probation. He must pay $6,000 in restitution.
As part of Devlin’s sentence, U.S. District Judge John Antoon II ordered him to forfeit his interest in the hotel. Devlin’s share of the sale was $1.55 million, according to prosecutors. Antoon also ordered Devlin to pay $6,000 in restitution and remain on probation for his lifetime.
Devlin is serving his sentence in a low-security federal prison in Yazoo City, Miss., Federal Bureau of Prisons records show. Ehman is at a medium-security prison in Marianna in Florida’s Panhandle.
Devlin was found guilty in 1995 of molesting a 15-year-old boy, but his conviction was overturned after the teen recanted.
Devlin was arrested earlier in the 1990s on other sex charges involving children — including in 1991 after investigators said he paid two boys to perform sex acts while he photographed him — but he was not convicted.
The 225-room Desert Inn at 900 N. Atlantic Ave. is under new ownership and management as of late September and will be renovated next year, according to its reservation center and website.