Mid-South couple recorded berating restaurant employees in racist rant

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - A well-known last name in Memphis is at the center of a racist tirade recorded and published online.

Lauren Loeb and her husband, Joe Marelle, are being named as the two people heard in a recording berating a restaurant employee over the phone.

Attorney Brian Faughnan represents the couple. He said the couple's phone was stolen and called into doubt aspects of the recording.

"The conversation that is being claimed to occur is faked in many respects as neither of them would use the terms or speak in the manner portrayed," Faughnan said in a statement. Faughnan has not responded to requests to clarify what 'faked in many respects' means.

Staff at the Mango Reef Restaurant on the islands of Turks and Caicos, which is located in the Atlantic Ocean north of Dominican Republic, recorded the racist tirade.

In the recording, the couple repeatedly uses the n-word, tells the restaurant employee to "go back to Africa," and threatens physical violence against the employee. The recording contains explicit language and should only be listened to with caution. You may click here if you chose to listen to the uncensored recording yourself.

"It's just really, really shocking for the resident population at Turks and Caicos Islands," Magnetic media News owner Deandrea Hamilton said. "People describe it as the worst racist rant they have ever heard."

Hamilton said she knows the 19-year-old restaurant worker the couple was berating.

"Young man, fresh out of high school, and to hear him to be spoken to like that," Hamilton said.

Hamilton said the woman on the phone broke the law by threatening to cut the man's throat.

'Loeb' is a prominent last name in Memphis with family ties to Loeb Properties (which owns Overton Square, among other properties in the city) as well as Henry Loeb, who served as mayor of Memphis in the 60s and early 70s.

Loeb Properties said Lauren Loeb has never been connected to the real estate group.

"Loeb Properties strongly condemns the language and sentiment of this reprehensible recording. The individuals involved are not now and have never been associated with Loeb Properties."

Lauren Loeb was previously employed with the Greater Memphis Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber said Loeb's employment ended on March 10, 2017--that's nearly a month before the racist rant was recorded. The Chamber also released the following statement about the recording:

"This recording shows a despicable act by a despicable person. Anybody who makes a statement like this is not eligible for employment with the Greater Memphis Chamber. Anyone who engages in conversation like this would be terminated from the Chamber."

The Memphis Branch NAACP and Black Lives Matter Memphis condemned the recording with the strongest terms. Below is Memphis Branch NAACP's statement on the recording.

"After listening to the audiotape of allegedly a former Memphis Regional Chamber employee Lauren Loeb and her husband, I'm convinced more than ever that racists are feeling more empowered than ever to say exactly what they think and feel.

A spokesperson at Mango Reef Restaurant declined to comment on the case. The couple were guests at the Seven Stars resort when the recording was made. The general manager said the couple left Tuesday and they have been blacklisted from the property.

Loeb's husband, Joe Marelle, is listed as the CFO of Tobacco Superstores, Inc. in Forest City, Arkansas. Nobody answered the company's phone when WMC Action News 5 called for a comment (that phone call was made on Good Friday).

Faughnan's full statement can be read below:

"A "news" story has made its way from Turks & Caicos to Memphis.  It is a story that is false in many respects but it is now garnering such attention here that it simply cannot be ignored or go without a response given how it threatens the reputations and privacy of people who are now about to be victimized twice.

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