Hotels in Alpharetta, Chamblee and Sandy Springs have been named in four lawsuits that allege they and one other metro Atlanta hotel took part in sex trafficking there.
According to a news release, four sex trafficking survivors Aug. 26 filed the first lawsuits in Georgia with the goal of holding the four hotels accountable for profiting from and participating in sex trafficking at those locations.
The Extended Stay America location at 1050 Hammond Drive in Sandy Springs is one of the four hotels named in the complaint that alleges the survivors were trafficked during different times between 2010 and 2016.
The other hotels allegedly involved were the Red Roof Inn at 2200 Corporate Plaza in Smyrna, the Suburban Extended Stay (now a HomeTowne Studios) at 2050 Peachtree Industrial Court in Chamblee and the La Quinta Inn at 1350 North Point Drive in Alpharetta.
The complaints allege employees at the hotels were paid by the survivors’ sex traffickers to knowingly allow the crime to occur at the hotels and to act as lookouts and alert the sex traffickers when police were called to the hotel or if other guests noticed the substantial foot traffic — 10 to 20 men per day — in and out of the rooms. The survivors are represented by Patrick McDonough and Jonathan Tonge of Andersen, Tate & Carr of Duluth.
“Traffickers target and groom our most vulnerable young people and then they rely on complicit hotels to provide a cheap and secretive location to sell them like chattel over and over and over.” McDonough said in the release. “For the ones that survive, the lasting effects are heartbreaking, complex and long term.”
The four lawsuits — filed anonymously by the survivors as Jane Doe 1 through 4 — were filed in U.S. District Court in Atlanta against Red Roof Inns Inc., Choice Hotels International Inc., Westmont Hospitality Group Inc., La Quinta Worldwide LLC, Extended Stay America Inc. and other subsidiaries, owners and operators of four hotels in metro Atlanta and one hotel in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
The lawsuits allege — after detailing lengthy histories of criminal activity at the Smyrna Red Roof Inn and Suburban Extended Stay — that multiple employees at the Red Roof Inn were paid by the survivors’ sex traffickers for years and that these employees knew the survivors were being trafficked at the hotel.
Corporate employees had information on the trafficking at the Smyrna Red Roof Inn and a hotel employee admitted in online news articles that the hotel was aware of sex trafficking, but still the company did not act. The complaints state that for many years, continuing to this day, the Red Roof Inn in Smyrna has maintained a conspicuous policy at the front desk stating, “NO REFUNDS AFTER 15 MINUTES.”
At the Extended Stay America, the complaints allege that when a survivor confided in an employee at the front desk, the employee’s response was to offer the survivor an array of lingerie the employee kept for sale behind the counter because trafficking was so prevalent at the hotel.
At the La Quinta Inn, the complaints allege employees positioned the sex traffickers’ rooms near the back exit of the hotel so the foot traffic of buyers coming in and out of the room would be less noticeable to the other guests. The traffickers were also provided with extra key cards to leave outside the hotel for buyers to use.
“These lawsuits demonstrate what we all know: hotels know about sex trafficking; hotels participate in sex trafficking; and hotels make money from sex trafficking,” Tonge said in the release.
In a statement emailed in response to a message seeking comment on the lawsuits filed against Chamblee’s HomeTowne Studios location, the hotel’s parent company, Red Roof, stated, “Red Roof condemns, and has zero tolerance for, human trafficking and child exploitation. Red Roof expects its franchisees to follow the policy and as part of our franchise agreement, comply with the law.
“In light of this pending litigation, Red Roof is unable to discuss specifics of the case. However, Red Roof will continue to work with law enforcement and aggressively enforce these human rights policies and will take all appropriate action.”
In a statement emailed in response to the same message, Wyndham Hotels & Resorts, La Quinta’s parent company, stated, “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.”
An email sent to Extended Stay America’s spokesperson seeking comment on the lawsuit was not immediately returned.