Disney employee accused of making illegal audio recording during theft investigation

Prosecutors: Woman shared recording with man accused of stealing props

A Walt Disney World employee made an illegal audio recording of her interview with Disney security officials while being questioned about thefts at the theme parks, according to prosecutors.

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – A Walt Disney World employee made an illegal audio recording of her interview with Disney security officials while being questioned about thefts at the theme parks, according to prosecutors.

Alicia Reese later shared that secret recording with Patrick Spikes, a former Disney employee who is accused of breaking into a theme park attraction and stealing props, deputies allege.

Prosecutors have charged Reese with an illegal interception of oral communications, a felony punishable by up to five years in prison.

Reese and Spikes have pleaded not guilty to the charges against them.

Reese, who had been an employee of ESPN Club restaurant at Disney’s Boardwalk Resort, was interviewed by two Disney security investigators in March about thefts from the company.

A human resources representative and a union representative were also present during the interview, which reportedly took place in an office inside the Disney restaurant.

According to authorities, Reese used a cell phone to covertly record audio of the interview without informing the other people in the room.

She later uploaded that recording to an online cloud storage service and provided a copy to Spikes, according to sheriff's officials.

A confidential source tipped off a Disney Security investigator about the recording, according to a report.

Under Florida law, it is illegal to make an audio recording unless all parties to the communication have given prior consent.

The Florida Supreme Court has found that an exception to that law applies if the parties do not have a reasonable expectation of privacy, such as during a public meeting.

Reese admitted to an Orange County Sheriff's detective that she had made a recording "that the people in the meeting were not aware of," according to an arrest report.

"The interview took place in an office at the (Disney) restaurant, and was not a public meeting," the detective wrote in a report.

Reese's criminal defense attorney disputes law enforcement's characterization of the interview setting.

"At no time was there an expressed prohibition on recording this meeting nor did any of the attendees exhibit an expectation of privacy," attorney David Bigney recently wrote in a motion seeking to dismiss the criminal charges against his client.

A court hearing on the defense's motion is scheduled for next month.

According to court records, Disney security officials originally interviewed Reese about entering other Disney properties she was not assigned to and removing items.

Reese admitted to entering the parks and removing a ride manual, claiming she had permission to do so from an unknown employee known only as “Matt,” according to a report.

[RELATED COVERAGE: Former Disney employee accused of stealing $7,000 worth of costumes from Haunted Mansion | Photos show costumes, props, other items stolen from Disney World]

However, prosecutors have not charged Reese with any theft-related crimes.

Reese is not currently under investigation for theft, according to the Orange County Sheriff's Office.

Deputies arrested Spikes and his cousin, Blaytin Taunton, in May for allegedly sneaking into the Haunted Mansion attraction at Disney's Magic Kingdom and stealing props including wigs and costumes worn by the animatronic ghosts.

Spikes and Taunton are scheduled to go on trial next month on charges of grand theft, burglary and dealing in stolen property.

Both have pleaded not guilty.

According to an arrest report, Reese was "temporarily suspended" from her job in March, immediately following her interview with Disney Security investigators.

A Walt Disney World spokesperson did not respond to questions inquiring about Reese’s current employment status at the resort.

About the Author:

Emmy Award-winning investigative reporter Mike DeForest has been covering Central Florida news for more than two decades. Mike joined News 6 just as Florida officials began counting hanging chads in the aftermath of the 2000 presidential election. Since then, he has covered some of the biggest news events in Central Florida.