A woman who says she was first sex-trafficked at the age of 4 has filed a lawsuit against three hotel chains, claiming the businesses were complicit by "enjoying the profit from rooms rented for explicit purposes."
The defendants — listed as Best Western International, Inc., Hyatt Corporation, and Red Lion Hotels Corporation — are accused of renting rooms to F.M.'s sex traffickers knowing she would be sold for sex.
Sold by her father
Now an adult, the woman identified as "F.M." in the suit said her father sold her at the age of 4 to sex traffickers in Irving to sustain his drug addiction. From that time on, she said, she was sold to "Johns" for sex and "brutally abused."
In several cases, F.M. was blindfolded and visibly malnourished when she was checked into hotels, the lawsuit says. She said bellmen would meet her and other children when they arrived at the hotels and then bring them to buyers.
The lawsuit names four specific North Texas hotels, three of which were located around DFW Airport, where F.M. says she was forced into sex acts:
- Best Western Plus DFW Airport Suites
- Hyatt House Dallas/Frisco
- Best Western Irving Inn & Suites at DFW Airport
- America’s Best Value Inn Irving/Dallas
F.M. said "Johns" would tie her to a bed and sexually assault her and that her traffickers would control her by making her dependent on meth, crack cocaine, cocaine and marijuana.
Her traffickers used Craiglist.com to find Johns, the lawsuit says.
By the time she was in her 20s, F.M. said, she was "in the possession" of her third trafficker, who she said raped her 2-year-old son as punishment for not working. She said the trafficker also forced her to watch as he raped infants.
“For too long, the industry has profited by looking the other way when sex trafficking has been happening right in front of them," said Lanier Law Firm founder Mark Lanier in a statement released Wednesday. "We’re filing this lawsuit to get some justice for victims and to let these businesses know that their lack of action is unacceptable.”
The Lanier Law Firm is based in Houston, where another sex trafficking victim filed a lawsuit against hotels in September.
In that case, the sex trafficking survivor said she was 15 years old when she was sold for sex at hotels across the Houston area.
"Before everything happened, I was a normal teenager," she told KHOU, our sister station in Houston. "I played sports and I got A's and B's in school."
She said she met her would-be sex trafficker through a school friend.
"They just left me [at a hotel]," she said. "A man came in the room and he put money on the table and I just put two and two together."
Her attorney, Derek Potts, said his client filed the suit against three Houston-area hotels with the hopes it will change the way they operate.
"If there's criminal activity going on, they have a duty if they know about it, or should know about it, to put a stop to it so their visitors are not harmed,” he said.
Wednesday, CNN also reported on another lawsuit filed against hotels in Oregon and Washington in connection to sex trafficking in 2012 and 2013.
In that case, a woman says she was trafficked at the age of 22.
Over a five-year period, cases of sex trafficking reported to the National Human Trafficking Hotline in Texas have more than doubled. In 2013, there were 437 cases reported. By 2018, there were 1,000.
In 2018, Texas had the second-highest number of reported cases at 1,000, compared to California, which had 1,656, according to the National Human Trafficking Hotline.
If you are a victim of sex trafficking and need help, you can call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888 or visit humantraffickinghotline.org.
Hotel responses to North Texas case
In a statement to the Star-Telegram, Best Western Hotels & Resorts said:
“Best Western International, Inc condemns human trafficking. It is a despicable crime and the criminals who intentionally inflict this suffering on their victims should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
Best Western supports the industry’s efforts to raise awareness and fight against this inhumane and horrific crime. While Best Western branded hotels are independently owned and operated, we require that each member hotel complies with all laws and treats all hotel guests consistent with our core values of integrity, honesty, and respect for others’ dignity.
“We provide information and training resources to member hotels on this serious issue, such that hotels can educate their staff about how to recognize and report instances of trafficking.”