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$100 million lawsuit: Over 20 Collier County hotels, motels accountable for sex trafficking

A new lawsuit seeking $100 million in damages for two victims claims the owners of nearly two dozen Collier County hotels and motels are responsible for sex trafficking on their premises.

Along some of the busiest and public roads in Collier County, a new 87-page lawsuit claims there is a dark side we need to shine a light on.

“Sex trafficking in Naples? Impossible,” said Yale Freeman, an attorney. “And that’s what our case really defines. It’s here.”

But Freeman said not take his word for it.

Gregory Hines and Keith Lewis are convicted human traffickers, arrested for preying on people in Collier County. Now, two of their victims are speaking up and identifying at least 22 hotels where the victims said they were repeatedly abused.

Sharon Hanlon, an attorney, said this lawsuit demands the hotels be held accountable.

“Basically, the hotels turned a blind eye,” Hanlon said. “The women would be walking around with scabs, bandages and lacerations and look like they were roughed up.”

Linda Oberhaus, the CEO of The Shelter for Abused Women & Children, said she believes these victims.

“Absolutely,” Oberhaus said. “These are the hotels that are allowing human trafficking to exist.”

“The women were drug overdosing,” Hanlon said. “We have EMS, hospital reports that are right there at the hotel.”

The lawsuit claims the owners and operators even “benefited and profited from sex trafficking and other criminal activity that was occurring on their hotel premises.”

“We have hotel employees who are also buying drugs and gaining sexual favors from the girls,” Freeman said.

Freeman told us it does not matter how law enforcement works. Human trafficking is not going away if hotels do not face the consequences.

“If they’re going to permit sex trafficking,” Freeman said, “there are a group of lawyers here who are going to try to stop you.”

As of publication, Hilton is the only hotel organization that has shared comment regarding the lawsuit. A Hampton Inn along Northbrooke Plaza Drive just east of North Naples is run by Hilton and among the hotels named in the lawsuit.

“While we cannot comment specifically on matters pending litigation, Hilton is committed to complying with the law in every country and region where it operates and always seeks to advance respect for human rights,” a Hilton spokesperson said in a statement shared with WINK News. “We condemn all forms of slavery, forced labor and human trafficking, and encourage our suppliers and business partners to share in this commitment. We have a long-standing record of opposing human trafficking and sexual exploitation, demonstrated through our efforts to provide anti-human trafficking training to all team members across all brands and properties.

The lawyers in the story said as their investigation continues, they expect to add more hotels and motels to the lawsuit.

 

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If you or someone you know may be a victim of sex trafficking, contact the National Human Trafficking Hotline.

Reporter:Morgan Rynor
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