The details of this story are particularly disturbing. As a result, and as a service to our readers, we are urging caution when reading.
Two hotel chains operating facilities in New York City have been hit with a $10 million lawsuit over allegations that not only was child sex trafficking and assault happening on their properties, but that they knew about it, did nothing to stop it, and – in some cases – participated.
As detailed by the New York Post, the plaintiff, now in her 20s and identified only by her initials, claims that she spent ages 10 through 13 being sold for sex between a Howard Johnson hotel located in Jamaica, Queens and an Econo Lodge in the Bronx. Howard Johnson is operated by Wyndham and the Econo Lodge is a Choice Hotels property. She alleges that these assaults took place as often as 15 to 20 times each day and staff at at least one of the properties became active participants.
Evidence of her assaults was not difficult to find and either property could have taken action to stop it. Her lawsuit states that a “constant and voluminous” level of foot traffic in and out of the rooms made it apparent that something nefarious was going on. At the end of each stay, “numerous used condoms” that were “scattered across various surfaces” made it obvious what had transpired. The plaintiff and other girls like her were obviously abused, dressed highly inappropriately for their ages, and carried no luggage.
Rather than calling the police, the lawsuit alleges that staff at the establishments either turned a blind eye or, in the worst of worst-case scenarios, became active participants in the abuse themselves. In a stunning example of some of the worst of humanity, staff at the named Econo Lodge would exchange sex with the girl “in lieu of [her pimp’s] payment for the rooms” and would leave a bowl of free condoms at the front desk when the girls ran out.
She is now suing the chains for $10 million. Both Wyndham and Choice have adopted the Tourism Child-Protection Code of Conduct, a set of guidelines that can be used to help stop child sex trafficking. Employee training is a part of the code of conduct. And while the PR spin of signing onto the code of conduct allows them to proclaim that they’re taking an active role in the fight against child sex trafficking, sources indicate that neither chain mandates franchise employee training on detecting the signs of child sex trafficking the way other chains do.
While Wyndham issued a generic, blanket statement in response to the New York Post’s request for comment on news of this lawsuit, neither chain would comment on this particular case. Choice Hotels, owners of the Econo Lodge where hotel staff participated in the plaintiff’s alleged assaults, refused to make any comment whatsoever.