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Bombshell $10M suit claims two NYC hotels turned a blind eye to sex trafficking
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Courtesy: Andrew Denney | Courtesy: Gabrielle Fonrouge | News Source:

A 10-year-old girl was raped, tortured and beaten as she was sold for sex at two Big Apple motels while staff turned a blind eye to her obvious abuse, a bombshell $10 million lawsuit filed Tuesday claims.

The suit, filed in Brooklyn federal court and the first of its kind in New York, claims Wyndham Hotels & Resorts and Choice Hotels Corporation were complicit in the girl’s abuse by operating franchises that chose “to ignore the open and obvious presence of sex trafficking on their properties.”

The plaintiff, who is now a woman in her 20s and was only identified by the initials “S.J.,” claims she was sold for sex as much as 15 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, between 2006 and 2009, when she was between the ages of 10 and 13, the suit states.

S.J. had met her trafficker shortly after she escaped from a foster home where she was being sexually and physically abused, the suit says, adding she’d entered foster care after her father was caught molesting her.

“S.J.’s trafficker took advantage of her vulnerability by preying on the young girl’s normal desire for attention and approval and gaining her trust by taking her out for meals and shopping trips, and offering her life advice and the promise that she could be a part of their family,” the suit states.

The vast majority of sex trafficking victims were sexually abused as children, multiple experts have told The Post.

Once the girl’s trafficker, a 25-year-old man, gained S.J.’s trust and took her virginity, he forced her to service his clients, telling her “how you make ‘Daddy’ happy, is by making [them] happy,” the suit states.

For the next three years, the trafficker would put a “paper bag” over S.J.’s head and ferry her to the Econo Lodge and the Howard Johnson, where she’d spend days at a time being raped by clients non-stop, the suit states.

The trafficker would always pay for the rooms in cash and when he didn’t have money for rooms at the Econo Lodge, he allowed hotel staff to rape his victims “in lieu of his payment for the rooms,” the papers show.

There was even a bowl of free condoms displayed at the Econo Lodge’s front desk that the victims would use when they ran out, the suit states.

S.J. claimed in the lawsuit that there was “constant and voluminous” foot traffic in and out of the rooms and “numerous used condoms” were left “scattered across various surfaces” at the end of each motel stay, which should’ve indicated to staff obvious criminal activity was happening.

Further, the suit states staff at both of the motels allowed the abuse to happen by failing to call law enforcement and ignoring obvious warning signs displayed by S.J. and the pimp’s other victims such as clear physical abuse, diminished personal hygiene, lack of luggage, submissiveness and inappropriate attire.

Wyndham and Choice Hotels have both signed on to the Tourism Child-Protection Code of Conduct created by a leading anti-trafficking policy organization, End Child Prostitution and Trafficking (ECPAT-USA), according to the suit and ECPAT.

The code of conduct outlines six steps companies can take to prevent child sex trafficking, such as establishing policy and procedures against sexual exploitation of children and training employees on how to recognize whether trafficking is occurring.

Choice partnered with ECPAT in 2010 and Wyndham in 2011 — after S.J.’s abuse occurred — but still don’t mandate their franchises to implement the training the way other chains do, sources familiar with the hotels said.

“The hospitality industry plays a crucial role in the sex trade. The trope of the ‘no-tell hotel’ is certainly not a new one,” the lawsuit states, adding 45% of all sexual exploitation in New York City happens in hotels.

“Every day thousands of hotel employees witness manifestations of sex trafficking and commercial exploitation. Thus, the hospitality industry has the greatest reach to prevent, identify and thwart sexual exploitation where it is most likely to occur.”

Wyndham said in a statement that they “condemn human trafficking in any form” but could not specifically address the lawsuit.

“We have worked to enhance our policies condemning human trafficking while also providing training to help our team members, as well as the hotels we manage, identify and report trafficking activities,” the statement read.

“We also make training opportunities available for our franchised hotels, which are independently owned and operated. As the matter is subject to pending litigation, we’re unable to comment further at this time.”

Choice did not return a request for comment.

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