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National hotel chains slapped with new $10M child sex-trafficking suit
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Courtesy: Stephanie Pagones | News Source:

A woman who says she was raped repeatedly, tormented and held virtually hostage inside two New York City motels during her childhood has filed a $10 million federal lawsuit against the national chains, claiming they turned a blind eye to sex trafficking.

The case, filed Tuesday, comes roughly two months after a similar suit claimed several hotel companies with locations in the Atlanta, Georgia, area ignored and sometimes even profited from sex trafficking.

The Big Apple accuser,  now an adult identified in court papers as “S.J.,” says she had just run away from an abusive foster home in 2006, at age 10, when she met the trafficker who would force her into sexual encounters for money for the next three years.

Her lawsuit claims franchises of Wydham Hotels & Resorts, which owns Howard Johnson, and Choice Hotels Corp., which operates Econo Lodge, overlooked “the open and obvious presence of sex trafficking on their properties." Both hotel chains were also named in the Georgia lawsuit.


Wyndham, which said in a statement that it condemns any form of human trafficking, has worked to strengthen its policies and train employees to identify and report likely cases. The company declined to comment further because of the pending litigation.

A Choice Hotels spokesperson said the company is committed to "conducting business free from violations of human rights. Our brand rules and regulations require franchisees to comply with all local, state and federal laws and any violation can result in the termination of their franchise agreement."

The spokesperson would not comment on pending litigation.

The victim, who was placed in foster care because her father had molested her, "was first introduced to her trafficker by an older girl who was his recruiter,” according to the complaint. The 19-year-old "invited S.J. to a party where she repeatedly complimented her on her looks and offered her fashionable shoes and clothing," the lawsuit says.

While there, she met the trafficker, a 25-year-old man who promised to protect and care for her, as he did for "all of his girls," according to the suit.


Instead, he had sex with the child, then prostituted her against her will, sometimes as many as 20 times a day, both at an Econo Lodge in the Bronx and a Howard Johnson in Queens, the suit alleges. "He told her, 'How you make Daddy happy is by making them happy,'" according to the lawsuit.

He told her, ‘how you make ‘Daddy’ happy, is by making [them] happy.’

The pimp would place a paper bag over the girl’s head and transport her to one of the hotels, where she would be forced to “do whatever the client wanted” or face a beating. Sometimes the trafficker even threatened her life.

S.J.’s trafficker always paid for the room in cash and would sometimes require the girls to sexually service hotel staff in lieu of his payment for the rooms.

S.J. and the other girls would be kept at the Econo Lodge sometimes for three days at a time, with the rooms paid for in cash or by sexual favors for the staff, the suit claims. A bowl of condoms was displayed at the front desk of the motel, and used condoms were frequently strewn across the floor of the room after they left, according to the suit.

When the girls went to the lobby to pick up food deliveries the trafficker ordered for them at the Econo Lodge, "they frequently appeared tired and detached" because they couldn't leave their rooms until the trafficker's clients had finished, and they were under strict orders not to talk to anyone, the suit says.

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