Sex-trafficking victim claims Albuquerque motel ignored pleas for help, turned blind eye to abuse - Albuquerque Journal

Sex-trafficking victim claims Albuquerque motel ignored pleas for help, turned blind eye to abuse

The Motel 6 Midtown is on University next to the Big-I.(Albuquerque Journal file photo)

A Las Vegas, Nevada, woman alleges in a new federal lawsuit that she was harbored and trafficked at an Albuquerque motel whose management “overtly encouraged” the “horrific” behavior in March 2019.

The woman, identified as Jane Doe and a sex trafficking survivor, contends that employees at the Midtown Motel 6 at 1701 University NE, knew or should have known that she was being repeatedly exploited by her trafficker and the “many men who sexually assaulted her.”

But no one intervened and no one called police, alleges the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Albuquerque.

A response filed Friday on behalf of the defendants denies the woman’s allegations.

The suit details examples it claims occurred in which Motel 6 staff should have – but failed to – intervene or help.

During one encounter, the lawsuit alleges, the woman was “physically dragged by her trafficker from the reception office to a room located near the back of the Motel 6, in clear view of Motel 6 employees and agents.”

Another time, she attempted to make an outcry to a motel desk clerk, mouthing the words “help me.”

The woman “recalls making eye contact with this clerk, hoping that would stress her desperation,” the lawsuit states, but to no avail.

“This failure (led) to Jane Doe’s continued sexual exploitation and sexual assault while the Hotel defendants turned a blind eye to the plague of human trafficking and sexual exploitation at their location,” the lawsuit states. “Upon information and belief, this was done to maximize profits.”

Her lawsuit was filed anonymously “due to the nature of the abuse” she endured “and the risk to her personal safety.” But the lawsuit states that her identity will be disclosed under a protective order.

The lawsuit names as defendants G6 Hospitality Property LLC and Motel 6 Operating LP #140 doing business as Motel 6 Albuquerque Midtown. The lawsuit states that G6 and the Motel 6 Operating LP #140 were engaged in a joint venture to operate the motel.

But the response filed by the defendants states G6 didn’t own or operate the Motel 6 Midtown but provided “certain brand standards, recommendations and training materials concerning security and human trafficking” to the motel’s “independent owners and operators.”

Elizabeth Martinez, an Albuquerque lawyer for the defendants, declined to comment last week.

It is the third such lawsuit to be filed in New Mexico courts against the Midtown Albuquerque Motel 6 since 2019. The trafficking alleged in the lawsuits occurred at various times between 2013 and 2019.

One of those cases is pending in state District Court in Albuquerque, while a second lawsuit filed in federal court by a “Jane Doe #17, was resolved in November 2020, but the final agreement between the parties and any amount paid wasn’t disclosed.

The most recent lawsuit alleges that throughout March 2019, Motel 6 Midtown staff failed to report the gross physical abuse being imposed on “Jane Doe” at the hands of her trafficker.

Her physical abuse was evident given the bruising and swelling to her face and body, and she allegedly suffered psychological abuse, the lawsuit states.

“In front of Motel 6 employees, Plaintiff was required to obtain permission from her trafficker to even speak to the front desk staff. She was required to obtain permission from her trafficker to be able to use her own identification card during rental of the motel room,” the suit says.

When she mouthed the words “help me” to a desk clerk, “the clerk proceeded to collect the fee from her for the room rental, ignoring her desperate pleas.”

In addition, hotel employees “complied when her trafficker told the front desk staff that housekeeping was not to enter the room.”

“It was well-known to the Hotel Defendants that the Motel 6 in question had an extensive history of those seeking to exploit vulnerable individuals,” the lawsuit alleges.

Traffickers have long used the hotel industry as a hotbed for human trafficking, according to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Warning signs of human trafficking include: patrons paying for a room with cash or a prepaid credit card; people lingering outside a hotel room for long periods of time; people coming and going from the premises, and minors paying for hotel rooms.

In the case of 20-year-old Albuquerque woman Tobi Lynn Stanfill, her family brought a lawsuit in state District Court in 2020 alleging negligence on the part of several motels, including the Midtown Motel 6. Stanfill was repeatedly beaten, raped and enslaved at the Motel 6 in the days before her death in January 2017, the lawsuit alleges.

She was found dead, lying face down in a pool of blood at a public park with a gunshot wound to the head. The leader of the sex trafficking ring, Cornelius Galloway, was sentenced to 17 years in prison after pleading guilty in 2020 to one count of participating in a sex trafficking ring and Matthew Woods, described as his “enforcer,” is serving an 18-year federal sentence.

Authorities believed Stanfill was killed because she had become a liability to the organization.

Annie McAdams, a Houston attorney, said she has filed numerous civil cases on behalf of trafficking survivors alleging negligence by motels and hotels in the U.S.

“We’ve actually had feedback from law enforcement on the positive effects (of suing motels and hotels),” McAdams said. “I can tell you that accountability drives corporate change. I think the most positive responses I’ve seen have been engagement from certain hotel brands that say `how can we be better?'”


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