New Orleans motel owner ignored screams of trafficked women: U.S.

Reuters News
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Posted: Jul 01, 2015 4:22 PM

WASHINGTON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - A New Orleans motel owner pleaded guilty on Wednesday to profiteering from sex traffickers who beat women in the rooms he rented them for prostitution, the U.S. Justice Department said.

Kanubhai Patel, 74, the former owner of Riviera Motel, ignored screams for help, according to evidence presented in court and documents in the case.

"This defendant callously profited from a sex trafficking venture that used force, fraud and coercion to compel women to engage in commercial sex acts," said Vanita Gupta, head of the Civil Rights Division, in a news release.

Patel regularly rented motel rooms at inflated prices to pimps and would open the motel gate to allow the women to bring back customers, according to court documents.

Court documents and testimony at his plea hearing showed Patel knew the pimps physically abused the women. In once instance, a pimp beat a woman with a large piece of wood while she screamed for help, leaving her with numerous cuts and a broken arm.

Another time Patel saw blood on the walls, a broken toilet and damaged sink from a beating and he agreed not to call the police when the pimp said he would pay to cover the damage, according to court documents.

Patel could face a maximum of five years in prison when he is sentenced.

Five men from Memphis, Tennessee, aged between 22 and 33 years old, already have pleaded guilty to sex trafficking charges in the case, which was jointly investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigations and Homeland Security, Justice said. The five face a maximum sentence of life in prison.

(Reporting by Stella Dawson; Editing by Leslie Gevirtz)