Two Florida women who were victims of sex trafficking are suing nearly two dozen hotels where they were forced to have sex.
They claim the businesses did not try to stop the illegal activity. The lawsuit states that the women wandered the Naples-area hotel hallways while under the influence of drugs and wearing little clothing in 2015 and early 2016.
Sex trafficking allegedly occurred at 22 Collier County hotels and motels, say Naples lawyers Yale Freeman and Sharon Hanlon, who are suing the businesses.
The lawsuit, which was filed at the end of 2019 in state court in southwest Florida, seeks $100 million in damages.
Owners of the hotels deny seeing any suspicious behavior, and one owner referred to the lawsuit as “a legal scam.”
“We didn’t see any suspicious activity. If we do see it, we always call,” said Yogeshkumar Patel, owner of the Glades Motel on U.S. 41 East. “We’re always here. We watch everybody. We don’t allow in-and-out people. We don’t allow unregistered people to stay.”
Freeman, who began investigating the case three years ago, says it is clear that staff witnessed the conditions of the hotel rooms and saw the women, who he claims were forced to provide sex to up to 20 men a day.
He and Hanlon say they delayed filing the lawsuit until last year’s resolution of a criminal case that ended with the convictions of two men, 62-year-old Keith “Big Mike” Lewis 38-year-old and Gregory “Bowlegzz” Hines on trafficking and prostitution charges. The lawsuit states the men gave the women drugs to perform sex acts for clients.
Under a new state law, hotel, motel and massage parlor owners are required to train their employees to detect and report human trafficking.
Florida ranks third in the nation in the number of calls to the National Human Trafficking Hotline, according to the Florida Attorney General’s office.