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The four hotels named 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.
“Red Roof condemns, and has zero tolerance for, human trafficking and child exploitation,” the company said in an emailed statement Tuesday afternoon. “Red Roof expects its franchisees to follow the policy and as part of our franchise agreement, comply with the law.”
The other three businesses did not respond to emailed requests for comment from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Despite police investigations into commercial sex operations at the Red Roof Inn dating back until 2010, hotel management did nothing to stop it, according to the four plaintiffs. The lawsuits allege that signs posted on the hotel’s front desk and in the front office condone the use of rooms for trafficking, as long as the daily rental rate is paid.
“No refunds after 15 minutes,” the signs state.
The exterior of the Red Roof Inn, located at 2200 Corporate Plaza SE in Smyrna, Friday, August 23, 2019. The Red Roof Inn in Smyrna is one of four metro-Atlanta hotels being sued for knowing sex trafficking was taking place, but doing nothing about it. (Alyssa Pointeremail@example.com)
Credit: Alyssa Pointer
Credit: Alyssa Pointer
“There is no legitimate reason for the Smyrna Red Roof Inn to have such a policy,” the four lawsuits state. “The policy exists so that commercial sex acts cannot be accomplished quickly at the Smyrna Red Roof Inn without also paying for a room…”
Online reviews of the Red Roof Inn, and the other hotels named in the lawsuits, also mention illegal activity witnessed by other hotel guests, according to the lawsuits. Typically, someone claiming to be a manager of the hotel replied to the reviews with an apology. Managers also knew about law enforcement investigations into criminal activity at the hotels, the lawsuits allege.
While she was being trafficked, one plaintiff tried to get help from an employee of the Suburban Extended Stay, the lawsuit states. That employee then told the man running the trafficking operation, who beat the woman seeking help.
“You think somebody is going to help you? None of these people are going to help you,” the man allegedly told her.
An employee at the Extended Stay America kept lingerie behind the front desk and tried to sell it to one of the victims filing suit, the lawsuit alleges.
Susan Norris, founder of a nonprofit called Rescuing Hope, says the details in the lawsuit are not surprising. Her group works to bring awareness to the problem through education while also supporting survivors.
“There are people out there that will do anything to make money,” Norris said. “They are looking out for themselves and no one else.”
Sex trafficking happens at all types of hotels, including high-end resorts and boutique hotels, Norris said. But many are taking proactive steps to keep out criminal activity, including educating themselves about trafficking indicators.
“Some of them are taking a huge stand against this,” Norris said. “They are changing their staff. They are limiting pornography that can be seen in the rooms.”
The plaintiffs are seeking trials by jury and unspecified punitive damages.
— Please return for updates.