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Lawsuit: Midtown hotel management knew sex trafficking was going on

By Alexis Stevens, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution #atlanta-ga

The manager of a Midtown Atlanta hotel knew sex trafficking was taking place, a federal lawsuit filed this week claims.

The lawsuit, filed against America’s Best Value Inn on Peachtree Street, is the latest targeting metro Atlanta hotels accused of profiting from trafficking, rather than reporting the illegal activity.

“This hotel was a prison for our client,” attorney Pat McDonough said in an emailed statement. “She was kidnapped, drugged, and held captive there while being trafficked for months. Over the past two years, she has worked to rebuild her life and hopes that by holding the venue of her crime accountable, others will not be imprisoned there like she was.”

The plaintiff identified as “J.B.” was trafficked at the hotel between March and June of 2018, according to the lawsuit. She is represented by McDonough and Jonathan Tonge with Andersen, Tate and Carr law firm, along with Pete Law, Mike Moran and Denise Hoying from Law and Moran. In August, the attorneys filed two separate federal lawsuits against a Marietta hotel alleging that employees helped traffickers hide from police. Several previously filed lawsuits targeting hotels are still pending.

Red Lion Hotels, which runs the America’s Best Value Inn named in the latest suit, did not immediately respond Tuesday to a request for comment.

At the time J.B. was trafficked, she was among 14 victims at the Midtown hotel, the lawsuit states. Each day, numerous “buyers” frequented the hotel for sex.

“Plaintiff and other trafficking victims frequently appeared throughout the hotel and on the hotel premises wearing very little clothing,” the lawsuit states. “ABVI’s manager saw J.B. at breakfast on several occasions wearing very little clothing but did nothing other than to tell J.B.’s trafficker that she was no longer allowed to eat breakfast in the lobby.”

The hotel’s manager, who isn’t named in the suit, also arranged with the traffickers to have sex with victims, the lawsuit claims.

“J.B. also witnessed ABVI’s manager having sex with several other sex trafficking victims,” the lawsuit states. “Said manager knew these various victims were controlled by a sex trafficker and knowingly participated, protected and allowed the sex trafficking operations.”

J.B.’s trafficker used handguns and violence to intimidate her and forced her to use drugs, according the lawsuit. In late June 2018, she was beaten by her trafficker and allowed to get ice for her injuries. That’s when she was able to escape, the lawsuit states.

The plaintiff is seeking a trial by jury and unspecified punitive and compensatory damages.