Follow the money. That’s the famous phrase by “deep throat,” the White House informant who told the inside story of President Nixon’s Watergate scandal to the Washington Post. It’s what attorneys representing human trafficking victims are doing now, with the help of a new federal law: following the money.
Some of the details are revolting but all too familiar:
- Malnourished, underage girls loitering in hotel lobbies and lounges for weeks
- Clear evidence of sex and drug use in hotel rooms
- Girls clearly in distress visible to employees
- Sex paraphernalia in rooms paid with cash
- Numerous male visitors without luggage
- Excessive towel and sheet requests
The plaintiffs claim defendants should’ve been aware of the trafficking happening at their hotels given the online reviews discussing the activity and police arrests at their locations. They claim defendants violated the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act, which permits civil lawsuits against people and entities reasonably aware of human trafficking and profiting from it.
Attorneys across the country have been looking for survivors through advocacy groups like the Human Trafficking Project to serve as plaintiffs. These legal actions have been recently filed and many more expected.
Hilton told the magazine it “condemns all forms of human trafficking, including for sexual exploitation” and that it has signed onto the End Child Prostitution and Trafficking Code. It states they are “fully committed´ to protecting individuals suffering from abuse and exploitation. “We require all our hotels, including franchises, to conduct training on identifying the signs of human trafficking and on how to report them,” according to Hilton. Wyndham Hotels & Resorts and Marriot gave similar statements.
One of the lawsuits was filed in federal court in New Hampshire, according to Seacoastonline, on behalf of a plaintiff identified as K.B. The defendants are Best Western International, Intercontinental Hotels Corporation, Wyndham Hotels and Resorts, and Marriott International. The complaint claims that:
- She was first trafficked for sex in 2016 when she was 26, by a boyfriend who knew she was sexually abused as a child and manipulated her into thinking they were in a romantic relationship while she was sold her for sex at New Hampshire hotels
- B. alleges she was advertised online against her will, tortured and exploited at hotels in Concord, Keene and Gilford, where staff knew or should have known she was being victimized
Sex trafficking is a significant problem for those who are being held in modern day bondage, but they are forced to work in many industries. If you are a victim, call the Human Trafficking Project at 844-SEEKJUSTICE (844-733-5587) to get help. If you’re an attorney who wants to help victims, contact us at 855-477-8284 x101.
Edward Lott, Ph.D., M.B.A.
Human Trafficking Project, LLC