Bronx Hotel Turned Blind Eye as 10-Year-Old Was Sex Trafficked: Lawsuit

By Sasha Gonzales
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A woman is suing a Bronx Econo Lodge for allegedly ignoring sex trafficking at the hotel, allowing her to be prostituted there when she was just 10 years old.

Now in her 20s, the woman identified only as S.J. in court papers said she was recruited into the sex trafficking business after fleeing a sexually abusive father, as well as a foster home where she experienced abuse, according to the suit filed in Brooklyn Federal Court.

She was beaten and plied with narcotics by her 25-year-old trafficker, who forced her to have sex for money with 15 to 20 men per day—including staff members at the Econo Lodge, the lawsuit alleges.

S.J. claims hotel staffers accepted sex in lieu of money for the use of rooms where she was raped, court papers show.

The suit, which seeks $10 million in damages, alleges the trafficking occurred continuously from when S.J. was 10 to 13 years old. It also alleges she was trafficked at a Howard Johnson in Queens.

S.J. said her trafficker took her virginity and told her: “How you make ‘Daddy’ happy, is by making [them] happy,” referring to customers paying for sex, according to the suit.

The trafficker allegedly placed a “paper bag” over S.J.’s head as he took her to the hotels, where she was raped continuously by multiple men, the suit alleges.

“The hospitality industry plays a crucial role in the sex trade,” the court papers state.

Choice Hotels, which owns the Econo Lodge, said in a statement: “As a signatory of Ecpat’s Tourism Child-Protection Code of Conduct, we are committed to working with our independently owned and operated franchised hotels to combat this violation of human rights.”

In a separate statement, Wyndham Hotels and Resorts, which operates the Howard Johnson, said: “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.”

About Sasha Gonzales 266 Articles
Sasha Gonzales is a Staff Writer for Bronx Justice News covering breaking news and crime. A Bronx native, Sasha is an avid photographer, museum-goer, and reader. She lives in Kingsbridge.