The lawsuit says employees at one property looked the other way when a pimp beat one victim so badly the room wound up stained with blood.
Several hotel chains are being sued by a group of young women who claim that employees in their Atlanta and Baton Rouge outlets shielded sex traffickers from police stings and investigations.
The lawsuit, says Fox Business, was filed Monday by four women, two of whom say they were underage at the time they were trafficked. Together, they say that hotel workers actively aided abusive pimps and violent people-smugglers. Some employees simply looked the other way, while others received money by acting as look-outs.
The gross negligence purportedly took place between 2010 and 2016.
The suit, notes Fox Business, was co-filed by attorneys Jonathon Tonge and Patrick J. McDonough.
“These lawsuits demonstrate what we all know: hotels know about sex trafficking; hotels participate in sex trafficking; and hotels make money from sex trafficking,” Tonge said in a statement. “When the choice comes down to leaving a room empty or renting that room to sex traffickers, the hotels in these lawsuits consistently chose to rent the room to sex traffickers.”
Named as defendants or otherwise complicit are Red Roof Inns, Choice Hotels International, La Quinta Worldwide, Wyndham Hotels & Resorts and Extended Stay America (which itself is owned by Choice Hotels).
In total, five properties—two owned by Choice Hotels and its subsidiary, Extended Stay—are alleged to have aided traffickers.
CNN provides some excerpts from the suit. At one Red Roof Inn, receptionists purportedly put up signs saying “NO REFUNDS AFTER 15 MINUTES”—apparently in an effort to dissuade johns from trying to quickly perform “commercial sex acts” without also having to pay for a room.
At two other locations—operated by Extended Stay and La Quinta Inn, respectively—employees were aware of traffickers viciously beating women. At La Quinta Inn, a pimp even videotaped a brutal assault, which lasted for six hours and left the room covered in blood.
In each incident outlined by the suit, employees were aware of the abuse—or clearly should’ve been—and chose to do nothing, in some cases even returning victims who were attempting to escape to their abusers.
“The most shocking thing to me was there wasn’t one shocking event—there were so many shocking events and it was so pervasive,” McDonough said.
At some properties, between 10 and 20 ‘johns’ would visit the rooms each and every day. And hotel employees did nothing about it.
CNN notes that Atlanta has long had a reputation for being an epicenter of forced prostitution and human trafficking. Its mayor, Keisha Lance Bottoms, has said it’s the third-worst city in the country when it comes to the latter metric. The lawsuit itself cited a Justice Department study which says Atlanta is among the most ‘profitable’ areas for traffickers in the country—the racket earns $290 million each year in Atlanta, with smuggling and prostitution rings making their operators, on average, $33,000 per week.
Most of the chains which provided statements to media outlets like CNN and Fox stressed that they oppose human trafficking, and that the locations named in the suit are independently-owned franchises.