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The owners of an Atlanta area Econolodge face a lawsuit brought by a young woman who was forced into prostitution and sex trafficked at the hotel when she was a teenager, alleging the owners and staff knew about the activity, yet did nothing to prevent the abuse.
In an amended complaint (PDF) filed last week in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, the woman seeks damages under the Sex Trafficking Victim’s Protection Act from Naseeb Investments, Inc., which was doing business as The Hilltop Inn and Econolodge in Conley, Georgia.
According to allegations raised in the lawsuit, a woman identified only by the initials “C.B.” was enticed to the hotel by an advertisement for a free room placed by Timothy Lyle Chappell, a convicted sex offender who already faced a charge of child molestation when he placed the ad in 2010. Upon arrival, C.B. was raped and forced into prostitution at the hotel, while she was only 15.
Currently, Chappell is serving federal prison time for his trafficking of the plaintiff. However, the lawsuit claims that the hotel operator itself should be held responsible, indicating that staff knew the facility was being used for sex trafficking, but turned a blind eye and continue to generate profits from renting rooms to Chappell..
The hotel consists of two buildings on the same plot. One is the Econolodge building and the other is the Hilltop Inn. Both are extended stay hotels.
C.B. indicates she was kept in a room next to Chappell’s, and raped repeatedly for nearly three days while being prostituted, before she was able to convince one of the “clients” to help her escape.
“While C.B. was trafficked at the Hilltop Inn, C.B. exhibited numerous well-known and visible signs of a minor sex trafficking victim in the common areas, of which Defendants knew or should have known, including her age and inappropriate appearance, physical deterioration, fatigue, sleep deprivation, injuries, a failure to make eye contact with others, no control of or possession of money, loitering, and monitoring and control by Chappell,” the lawsuit states. “While she was trafficked at the Hilltop Inn, C.B.’s room evidenced numerous well-known and visible signs of sex trafficking of which Defendant knew or should have known. These signs included a fifteen-year-old having her own room with multiple condoms and condom wrappers in that room and with a man over 30 years her senior in the room next door.”
In recent years, dozens of nearly similar claims have been brought against the operators of various other well known hotel chains, including Hilton, Marriott, Wyndham, Best Western, Red Roof Inn and others, alleging that the industry places the desire for profits before human misery, by failing to enact standards and procedures that would have prevented sex traffickers from openly using their hotel rooms, often involving minor children.
C.B.’s lawsuit accuses the hotel’s owners of violating the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA), and knowingly benefiting financially from the sex trafficking of a minor. She is seeking both compensatory and punitive damages.