Houston attorney sues hotels in a sex trafficking case involving 15-year-old girl

Houston attorney, Derek Potts, says his client was a high school sophomore until she was taken from her family, drugged, and exploited for sex.

Last week, he filed a lawsuit in Harris County claiming the hotels were the girl was forced to work were negligent in protecting her despite multiple red flags. The 15-year-old is only identified as Jane Doe in the filing.

"She was told that she had to make a certain amount of money every day," Potts told FOX 26.

Some of that money, he adds, would have to be used to pay for hotel rooms and the girl would pay cash.

From November 2016 to April 2017, he says Doe was trafficked at three hotels in West Houston near the Beltway – the Candlewood Suites, Clarion Inn and Suites, and the Red Roof Inn.

Potts believes other girls were also exploited there.

"Why were they continuing to rent rooms to girls who were 15, 16-years-old who wouldn’t have an ID and were paying in cash?," he asked. 

Under Texas law, there is no minimum age requirement to rent a hotel room. However, hotels can set their own standards.

The lawsuit also names InterContinental Hotels Group, Choice Hotels, and a local security company.

"We’d like to send a message to hotels owners and premises where this types of things are going on that they do have the obligation under Texas law to protect their visitors," he added.

In a statement, a spokesperson for Intercontinental Hotels Group said:

"We have not yet received the filing. We will review and respond to any allegations through the appropriate judicial process."

The owner of Candlewood Suites said he had not seen the lawsuit and did not have comment. The managers at Clarion Inn and Suites and the Red Roof Inn say they do not tolerate human trafficking and staff know to alert police. The Red Roof Inn added they do periodic trainings on the subject and had one last week.

Jane Doe was eventually rescued by Houston Police when her family recognized her in an online sex ad.

Commander Jim Dales with the Houston Police Department Vice Division says they constantly get tips.

"Very common. Unfortunately, we deal with that a lot," Dale told FOX 26.

But he says hotels are largely cooperative with them and ask for their help with trainings to identify human trafficking.

"If you pay cash for the room is always a clear sign," he listed some of the warning signs. "A lot of these men will meet women that come into the lobby."

Dale adds some hotels chains now post signs with information for victims.

"I hope that all of the hotel owners pay attention to this lawsuit and that maybe it’ll serve to protect some of the other young girls," Potts concluded.

FOX 26 did not hear back from Choice Hotels and the security company says they’re only contracted to prevent theft in the parking lot of the hotels.

Help for victims of human trafficking is avaiable by calling the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888 or texting "Help" or "Info" to  233733 (BeFree). Help is also available through the Houston Police Vice Division by calling 713-308-8600.