Motel Sued by Alleged Human Trafficking Victim Forced Into Sex Work as a Teen

The girl was allegedly forced to have sex with more than 1,000 men at the motel over the course of two years.

A Pennsylvania teen girl was allegedly forced to have sex with more than 1,000 men at a motel where her attorneys say she was held against her will as part of a human trafficking ring.

The claim was made as part of a lawsuit the alleged victim’s attorneys have filed against the Roosevelt Inn in northeast Philadelphia, where they say the teenager was sexually exploited in what is said to be the first civil suit under the state’s human trafficking law since it was enacted in 2014, officials said.

"This is something that should have been stopped or addressed," Nadeem Bezar of Kline & Spector, one of the alleged victim’s attorneys, told on Monday. "You owe a duty to someone to protect them when they’re on your property."

The alleged victim was 14 years old when she was allegedly first forced into the illegal sex trade, made to perform sexual acts for men in 2013 and 2014 at the motel, which the suit alleges provided rooms to her traffickers for its own financial gain.

The suit, filed in Philadelphia Common Pleas Court, named as defendants the Roosevelt Inn, its manager Yagna Patel and its parent company, UFVS Management Company, of New York.

It claimed those named in the suit "knew or had constructive knowledge" that the victim, who is now 17 and identified only as M.B., was "being sexually exploited."

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The girl’s traffickers allegedly advertised on the internet, negotiated with men a cash price for sex and then directed the men to the motel’s front desk, where they were directed to M.B.'s room, the suit said.

While at the Roosevelt Inn, M.B. "dressed in a sexually explicit manner" while walking the hallways, "was visibly treated in an aggressive manner by traffickers" and "exhibited fear and anxiety," according to the suit.

Despite allegedly knowing about or seeing signs of human trafficking, the hotel, its manager and its workers did not report the crimes to authorities or otherwise stop the girl's victimization and as a result, M.B. suffered physical harm, mental anguish and humiliation, the suit said.

“We’re not talking about a thousand-acre place; we’re talking about a limited space, a sort of roadside motel,” Bezar said. “There’s a front desk system that has one entry way and one side door and the ability to police who’s walking down the hallways and corridors.”

The lawsuit is seeking more than $50,000 in compensatory and punitive damages. It is the first of its kind in Pennsylvania to hold hotel and motel owners, among others, accountable for allegedly knowingly allowing such victimization to occur.

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“We’re hoping [the lawsuit]... becomes a threat or a discouragement to hotels and motels from allowing this type of behavior to occur... hotels and motels should clamp down on this," Bezar said, noting it’s an effort to put an end to human trafficking.

"If you’re going to profit from this kind of illegal activity, there’s going to be consequences," he said.  

When reached by Monday, neither the Roosevelt Inn nor UFVS Management Company had any comment.

Efforts to locate Yagna Patel for comment were unsuccessful.

He told CBS Philadelphia that he had done nothing wrong, saying: "I was always in the office, I didn’t see anything wrong."

"We just rent the room and that’s all we can do," he told the Philadelphia Inquirer. "It’s hard to control anybody. If we think a lot of people are having a party in the room, we kick them out."

The victim is still trying to reclaim her life, Nezar said. She is currently in therapy.

"She’s struggling," he said. "She’s really just trying to sort of re-rail or put her life back together. She’s just a kid."

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