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Sex Trafficking Victim Sues Backpage.com, Choice Hotels
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Summary: A former teen prostitute is seeking a jury trial against her pimp, Backpage.com, and Choice Hotels for profiting from human trafficking.

A sex trafficking victim is suing her convicted perpetrator, the website that advertised her services, and the hotels where she was forced to perform lewd acts on strangers.

  
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On Wednesday, the plaintiff filed a lawsuit in Houston against her abuser Santiago Alonso, Backpage.com, Choice Hotels and Veda LLC. Choice Hotels is the owner of the Quality Inn and Veda LLC owns the Dothan Hotel, two locations where the victim was allegedly forced against her will into prostitution.

In the lawsuit, the victim, who was 17 at the time, said that the defendants conspired to profit off of the sex trafficking of a teenager. Her attorney Greg Zarzaur of the Birmingham firm Zarzaur, Mujumdar & DeBrosse told Alabama.com that the purpose of the lawsuit is to shed light on the “horrors of sex trafficking in the U.S. and how it is happening in cities all across our nation.”

“Vulnerable people are taken advantage of, and entities either knew or should have known,” Zarzaur said. “But rather than acting on it, they financially benefited from it. Our civil justice system exists to hold those entities accountable for the wrong done.”

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The victim was kidnapped when she was a teenager by Alonso, who was found guilty in 2014 of human trafficking and distribution of drugs to a minor. During his trial, it was revealed that he forced the girl to take drugs so that he could pimp her out, and he found johns by placing classified ads on Backpage.com. He had forced her to perform sexual acts in various hotels until the victim escaped from a hotel room. She walked nearly eight miles until she could find a way to call the police.

Alonso is now serving a 50-year sentence.



Defendant Backpage.com was listed in the suit as well as the website’s owners. In the lawsuit, the plaintiff claims that the website earns $150 million a year and almost $3 million a week from sex ads. Zarcaur said that the company knowingly knows some of those ads are for victims of human trafficking.

“It’s very important to see just how big financially Backpage.com has become as a result of its involvement in adult ads, and their continued use of the section, even after it knew children were being sexually exploited on the website,” Zarcaur told Alabama.com.

The decision to sue the hotel chains also came from their alleged complicity. The lawsuit stated that there are obvious signs of trafficking such as older men with younger women who do not seem related, cash only payments, refusal of room service, etc; but that the hotels did not do enough to stop the criminal behavior.

“The vast majority of sex trafficking occurs in hotels and motels, and as a result, hotels and motels should be the first line of defense against illegal prostitution and sex trafficking of children. Instead, hotels and motels account for over ninety percent (90%) of commercial exploitation of children,” the lawsuit stated.

The plaintiff is seeking a jury trial.

Source: Alabama.com

Photo courtesy of Alabama Today

What do you think about this lawsuit? Let us know in the comments below.



 

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