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USA: Plaintiff settles lawsuit against motel where she was allegedly sex trafficked

Author: Todd Bookman, NPR, Published on: 21 February 2020

"Human Trafficking Survivor Settles Lawsuit Against Motel Where She Was Held Captive," 20 Feb 2020

In the summer of 2011, Lisa Ricchio received a call from a man she knew. He said he was in Massachusetts, in pain from a recent surgery, and needed help...

At least twice while she was held captive, Ricchio claims motel employees saw her in distress but failed to intervene. Ricchio ultimately escaped, and her abuser was arrested and sentenced to prison...

Under a federal law called the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, or TVPA, she sued the motel, alleging that the owners financially benefited from the crime...

Legal experts and anti-trafficking groups say her 2015 case was the first filed against a hotel or motel for its role in a trafficking crime.

"It is not that any hotel is liable just because trafficking occurred on their premises," explains Cindy Vreeland, a partner at the firm WilmerHale, which handled Ricchio's case pro bono. "The question is whether the company that's been sued knew or should have known about the trafficking."...

According to the Human Trafficking Institute, there were at least 25 new cases filed nationwide against hotels and motels last year under the TVPA.

Some of the named defendants include major chains such as Hilton, Marriott and Red Roof Inn....

Pennock has filed an estimated two dozen cases against hotels on behalf of victims in an effort to stop what he considers an epidemic of forced prostitution...

For its part, the hotel industry says it's actively working to stop forced prostitution in its rooms and takes the issue seriously.

"Every major U.S. hotel brand along with thousands of independent hotels have already begun training their employees," writes Chip Rogers, president and CEO of the American Hotel & Lodging Association, in a statement.

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Related companies: Hilton Marriott Shangri-La Hotel