Sex trafficking lawsuits continue to mount in courts around the United States, with the most recent filings targeting hotels in Georgia and New York City.
A complaint filed on Tuesday in Brooklyn federal court claims that Wyndham Hotels & Resorts and Choice Hotels Corporation were complicit in the sexual exploitation of a 10-year-old girl because franchises in the Bronx and Queens chose “to ignore the open and obvious presence of sex trafficking on their properties.”
The plaintiff, known only as “S.J.” is now an adult. Between 2006 and 2009, she was allegedly sold for sex up to 20 times per day at a Howard Johnson in Jamaica, Queens, operated by Wyndham, and an Econo Lodge in the Bronx, operated by Choice Hotels, when she was between the ages of 10 and 13.
During that time, her trafficker would place a paper bag over the girl’s head when taking her to the hotels, where he generally paid for rooms in cash. In the event that he did not have the money for a hotel room, he would allow Econo Lodge staff to rape his victims in lieu of payment. The Econo Lodge even kept a bowl of condoms at the front desk for the trafficker’s use.
The suit further claims that staff at both hotels failed to inform law enforcement and ignored obvious signs of sex trafficking, including clear physical abuse, diminished personal hygiene, lack of luggage, submissiveness, and inappropriate attire.
According to the complaint, the hospitality industry plays a crucial role in the sex trade, asserting that 45% of all sex trafficking that occurs in New York City takes place in hotels.
“Every day thousands of hotel employees witness manifestations of sex trafficking and commercial exploitation,” the lawsuit states. Thus, the hospitality industry has the greatest reach to prevent, identify and thwart sexual exploitation where it is most likely to occur.”
The second sex trafficking lawsuit was also filed Tuesday in Georgia federal court, and targets a Days Inn on Adamson Parkway and an America’s Best Value Inn on Old Dixie Highway, both near Atlanta. The plaintiff, dubbed H.M., had only escaped an abusive marriage and was overcoming a drug addiction when she met her trafficker, who allegedly forced her to have sex with countless clients at the two establishments over a six-month period in 2016.
Like the New York City lawsuit, the complaint also claims hotel staff and management ignored the obvious signs of abuse – including the plaintiff’s unkempt appearance, skimpy clothes, bruises and injuries — and refused her any help.
“The defendants all had the opportunity to stop H.M.’s trafficker and offenders like him from victimizing H.M. and others like her,” the lawsuit states.
“Instead, every defendant failed to take reasonable measures to stop sex trafficking from occurring in their hotels or abstain from profiting from it.”