Sex trafficking suit filed against five New Hampshire hotels
Complaint part of multistate litigation against major brands
A developmentally disabled woman who said she was a victim of sex trafficking is suing the owners of five hotels in New Hampshire, arguing that they should have known what was going on and done more to prevent it.
The woman, identified only as K.B., filed the suit Monday in federal court. According to the suit, the abuse began in 2016 when she was 26, allegedly at the Holiday Inn in Concord, the Best Western Inns in Concord and Keene, the TownePlace Suites in Gilford and the Super 8 in Tilton.
But the suit names the owners of the hotel brands, the Inter-Continental Hotels Corp. (Holiday Inn), the Wyndham Hotel and Resorts (Super 8), Marriott International (TownePlace Suites) and Best Western, blaming them for not setting policies or not following those already set to train employees to recognize signs of sex trafficking.
It is part of national multistate litigation against hotels to be filed by a New York law firm. K.B. is represented by Portsmouth attorney Michael P. Rainboth, who told NH Business Review it is the first sex trafficking suit filed against hotels in New Hampshire “as far as I know.”
The suit filed on behalf of K.B. alleges that sex trafficking ventures have “brazenly operated out of hotels” and that the chains have “chosen to ignore the open and obvious presence of sex trafficking on their properties, enjoying the profit from rooms rented for this explicit and apparent purpose instead.”
It went on to say that 63% of all trafficking incidents take place in hotels.
‘Voluminous and constant’ traffic
In the case of K.B., according to the suit, she was drawn into commercial sex by her boyfriend who knew that she was a “vulnerable adult” who had been sexually abused as a child.
“Preying on her need for affection of any sort, K.B.’s trafficker made sure that she actually believed that they were in a romantic relationship as he pushed her into commercial sex,” the suit said.
The trafficker allegedly would give her to others who “bought, sold and required her to sexually service paying strangers as she endured brutal physical assaults, psychological torment, verbal abuse, and false imprisonment.”
K.B.’s services were advertised on Backpage.com, according to the suit.
Repeatedly, the trafficker allegedly took her straight up to the room while non-paying guests accompanied with her. She often “stood off to the side and looked down out of fear,” and was “she was inappropriately dressed for the weather, exhibited poor hygiene as she had very limited clothing and was prohibited from showering as a form of torture and manipulation and was frequently being yelled at and bossed around by her trafficker. K.B. also did not have any form of identification,” according to the lawsuit.
She also had “bruises all over her,” the suit charges.
Her trafficker allegedly would stand outside in the hallway with her clothing while she serviced the buyer, and she was forced to have sex six to 10 times a day.
At the Super 8, the traffic was “voluminous and constant,” according to the suit, and one time the trafficker allegedly smashed K.B.’s head into the door of a room, spilling blood on it.
Obvious signs of sex trafficking include “an excess of condoms in rooms, individuals carrying or flashing large amounts of cash, excessive amounts of cash stored in the room, renting two (2) rooms next door to each other, declining room service for several consecutive days, significant foot traffic in and out of room(s), men traveling with multiple women who appear unrelated, women known to be staying in rooms without leaving, women displaying physical injuries or signs of fear and anxiety,” according to the suit.
Hotels whose employees undergo training or more likely to be aware of these signs and repot it, so it is the hotel chains that should insist on this training on their properties, the suit says.
“Parent hotel brands may kick delinquent hotels out of their system, but it is at the expense of terminating their royalty payments so it is seldom done,” says the suit.
The suit lists numerous incidents of sex trafficking that occurred in some of the hotels, including the arrest of a husband and wife for engaging in an interstate sex trafficking scheme at a Best Western in Portsmouth in December 2018.
The front desk of the Concord Holiday Inn said that the company would not comment, as did the manager at TownePlace Suites. The manager at the Best Western in Concord referred comments about the suit to the regional manager, who could not be reached by NH Business Review’s deadline.
The Wyndham, which was slapped with a similar suit in Ohio, issued the following statement:
“We condemn human trafficking in any form. 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. As the matter is subject to pending litigation, we’re unable to comment further at this time.”