WASHINGTON (Diya TV) — Motels and hotels have rapidly developed into facilitators for the sex trade, often cloaking the traffickers in anonymity and profiting from their business.
The pimps and prostitutes are occasionally nabbed and criminally prosecuted. But rarely does anything happen to the hotel owners and staff that turn a blind eye.
Now a lawsuit brought by a 14-year-old girl in Philadelphia and her lawyer are aiming to change that, suing a motel widely known as the “local epicenter of human trafficking” for knowingly renting rooms to men who forced teenage girls to have sex. The Roosevelt Inn, a roadside motel in northeast Philadelphia, has developed a notorious reputation for drug deals and violent crime as well as prostitution.
At the Roosevelt Inn, the lawsuit alleges, this 14-year-old girl was held for weeks and months at a time, barred from leaving, and was forced to have sex with as many as 1,000 men over the course of two years, Nadeem Bezar, a lawyer at the Kline & Specter law firm told The Washington Post. The hotel’s owners and staff continued to lease rooms to her traffickers, profiting off their abuse and doing nothing to stop it, the suit claims.
The striking allegations were made public Friday in a suit filed in the Philadelphia Common Pleas Court against the hotel, its manager, and its parent company, UFVS Management Company. The girl, who is now 17, was identified in the suit as “M.B.”
It is the first known civil suit brought under the Pennsylvania Human Trafficking Law of 2014, which allows for compensation for victims from those who profit directly or indirectly from human trafficking, according to the report from the Post. The lawsuit seeks more than $50,000 in compensatory and punitive damages.
“People are policing the hallways, men and other johns are coming in and out of the hotel, and young girls walking up and down the hallways are scantily dressed,” Bezar told the Post. “It’s open and obvious, it’s about as obvious as it gets.”
After a falling out with her family, Bezar said, the girl left home and moved from place to place. Desperate to avoid homelessness, she began spending time with the “wrong group of people,” Bezar said. She was sold into sex slavery and forced to perform sexual acts on men more than twice or three times her age, the lawsuit alleges.
The staff at the motel — which prosecutors have called the “local epicenter of human trafficking” — knew or had “constructive knowledge” that the girl was being sexually exploited, according to the lawsuit, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported. Her traffickers lured customers to the motel through Internet advertisements, had men call a number to negotiate a price for sex, then had the men go to the motel’s front desk.
The hotel’s manager, Yagna Patel, 72, told the Philadelphia Inquirer on Friday he had not seen the lawsuit and was not aware of any minors allegedly being victimized in the motel. “We just rent the room and that’s all we can do,” he said.
Reviews on Yelp and Trip Advisor call the 107-room, two-story facility a “drug infested, crime ridden, prostitution laced” place where the check-in desk contained bulletproof glass “an inch thick.”
“One thing which made us very uncomfortable was that a lot of “girls” were coming in and out all the time,” one guest wrote.
Another reviewer said: “No security at all, these girls are letting their jons in through side doors that are UN-LOCKED. The smell of marijuana through out the place is disgusting,” and added that the “working girls” and their pimps “run a muck half naked through the hallways.”