The operators of a Northeast Philadelphia motel once called the “epicenter of human trafficking” by a city prosecutor have been named as defendants in a civil lawsuit filed by attorneys for a child prostitution victim.
The plaintiff — who is identified in court documents as “M.B.” — was 14 when illegal sex traffickers began exploiting her at the Roosevelt Motor Inn, 7630 Roosevelt Blvd. According to the lawsuit, the girl was held at the motel in 2013 and ’14, kept in a guarded room, dressed in sexually explicit clothing, “treated in an aggressive manner” and forced to have sex with a litany of men.
The lawsuit alleges that the motel operators knew about the illegal activity, but allowed it to continue, facilitated it and profited from it by collecting cash payments for the rooms used by sex traffickers.
In a news release announcing the lawsuit, the plaintiff’s attorneys stated: “The proprietors … never intervened or called police.”
Tom Kline, Nadeem Bezar and Emily Marks of the Kline & Specter firm filed the case, which seeks to be the first to capitalize on provisions of Pennsylvania’s 2014 human trafficking statute that allow victims to collect compensation from those who profit directly or indirectly from human trafficking.
The lawsuit seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages against UFVS Management Company and its owner, Yagna Patel, who operate about 40 properties in New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Illinois.
Roosevelt Motor Inn has been the site of numerous police-related incidents in recent years. In September 2013, a man was arrested after he allegedly picked up a 12-year-old runaway in Frankford, brought her to the motel and forced her to have sex with him. Two months later, three gunmen allegedly forced their way into a room and stole cash, cell phones and a computer from two women.
In December 2013, undercover police responded to an online prostitution ad and arrested a 17-year-old girl along with her 50-year-old pimp at the motel. Four months later, two gunmen engaged in a shootout in the hallways and stairwells with patrons fleeing for cover. Police circulated a video of the gunfight, which lasted several minutes, and arrested the two combatants weeks later.
Last July, police found two dead women inside a room at the motel. The two West Virginia women in their 30s had plastic bags over their heads. Investigators later ruled that the women had committed suicide. ••