Christmas decorations adorn two motel windows and doors in this file photo.
Photo: Angela Piazza/AP
Photo: Angela Piazza/AP

New federal sex trafficking lawsuit targets more metro hotels

For the second time in two months, a federal lawsuit has been filed against the owners of metro Atlanta hotels where sex trafficking was allegedly ignored. 

Instead, the hotels cashed in and refused to help the woman despite her visible physical injuries, the lawsuit states. 

The suit targets two Clayton County hotels and their owners: A Days Inn on Adamson Parkway and an America’s Best Value Inn on Old Dixie Highway. 

Macon attorney John Mitchell, along with two Florida attorneys, filed the lawsuit Tuesday in Georgia’s Northern District Court.  

“Had the defendants been paying attention to the activities being conducted at their hotels and on their properties, and the apparent red flags... it would have been impossible not to notice the victimization,” the court documents say. 

RELATED: 4 Atlanta-area hotels face federal trafficking lawsuits

ALSO: Sex trafficker gets life for forcing 20-year-old to “make him money”

After escaping an abusive marriage and overcoming a drug addiction, a woman identified by the initials H.M. moved into a cheap hotel, the lawsuit states. There, she met the man who forced her into sex trafficking for nearly 6 months in 2016, beating H.M. and taking her belongings, forcing her to have sex with countless “clients.” 

“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.”

Wyndham Hotels and Resorts, which owns the Days Inn named in the suit, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution it could not comment on pending litigation. 

“We condemn human trafficking in any form,” Wyndham said in an emailed statement. “Through our partnerships with the International Tourism Partnership, ECPAT-USA, Polaris Project and other organizations that share the same values, 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. We also make training opportunities available for our franchised hotels, which are independently owned and operated.”

Red Lion Hotels Corporation, which owns the America’s Best Value Inn named, released a statement Thursday regarding the lawsuit. 

“Neither RLH Corporation nor any of its affiliates ever has owned, managed, operated, or supervised the Americas Best Value Inn located at 6358 Old Dixie Highway, Jonesboro, GA,” the statement reads. “The hotel's license to operate under the ABVI brand was terminated in 2013. Further, RLH Corporation has not been served yet nor have we been contacted by any attorney for the plaintiffs, to our knowledge.”

Many hotels, including those named in the suits, offer employee training to recognize sex trafficking. But in H.M.’s case, employees overlooked her unkempt appearance, skimpy clothes, bruises and injuries, the suit states. She weighed 90 pounds when she was finally able to escape. 

The lawsuit seeks a jury trial and unspecified damages.

In August, two Gwinnett County attorneys filed four lawsuits, believed to be the first of their kind in Georgia to target hotels rather than the individuals trafficking women. Attorneys Jonathan Tonge and Pat McDonough represent four unidentified trafficking victims, whose cases are still pending. 

The four hotels named in those suits include a Red Roof Inn near SunTrust Park and a La Quinta Inn near North Point Mall. Hometown Studios, previously operating as a Suburban Extended Stay, on Peachtree Industrial Court in Chamblee and Extended Stay America on Hammond Drive near Sandy Springs are also named.

The newly filed federal lawsuit claims the hotels turned a blind eye to the abuse and in some cases, employees served as lookouts, even pocketing cash for keeping quiet.

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