Federal lawsuit accuses former motel of profiting from sex trafficking

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — The owners of what was once a trouble spot for crime in Orange County are being accused in federal court of making money from a sex trafficking organization.


WFTV first told you about the property a decade ago, when law enforcement warned it was a public nuisance.

Investigative Reporter Karla Ray investigated claims in two suits filed on behalf of two sex trafficking survivors. The owners of the property told her they had nothing to do with the actual business, and they should not be party to the lawsuit.

The motel along Orange Blossom Trail is getting a remodel, and people on site told Channel 9 that the current management is working to turn the place around.

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It’s seen several rebrands over the years, but according to claims in federal lawsuits, it attracted more than just people looking for a place to stay.

“The employees at the hotel knew what was happening, and participated in it,” attorney Lisa Haba said. “They took profits from it, and they took bribes and tips from the traffickers and drug dealers to allow the criminal organizations to participate and have an ongoing flow of resources there.”

Attorney Lisa Haba is suing the owners, 4201 Orlando Incorporated, and the tenants who once managed the property, New Start City Incorporated, on behalf of two women who claim they were sold for sex at the former motel for years.

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The suits, being moved to federal court, claim that the former management was a ‘criminal entity masquerading as a motel’ and accusing the business of profiting through tips and other fees by allowing drug dealers and sex traffickers to ‘set up drug stores and brothels’ on their property.

“We’ve alleged in detail that cues were being taken by the traffickers, not what should be done under the law,” Haba said.

The property owners have distanced themselves from their former tenants. In 2018, the owners sued New Start City for eviction, accusing them of being past due in rent to the tune of more than $2 million.

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Now, 4201 Orlando Incorporated’s attorneys told us in a statement:  The plaintiff in this case made serious claims of being a victim of sex trafficking. However, the owner of the property, 4201 Orlando, Inc., believes it is unfair to hold it liable for the alleged actions of its former tenant, New Start City, Inc., from more than ten (10) years ago. Other than rent collection matters in which 4201 Orlando, Inc. was required to be involved for legal purposes, the company did not operate New Start City or its hotel business. New Start had complete control of the day-to-day operations, including security.

4201 Orlando never received any notices or complaints regarding any alleged illegal activity from the city or county or the Florida DBPR, the agency responsible for licensing hotel operations in the State of Florida. New Start was evicted by 4201 Orlando, Inc. in 2018 and has no knowledge of the plaintiff’s claims alleged in the lawsuit.

4201 Orlando, Inc. trusts the legal system and believes the Court will dismiss 4201 Orlando from the lawsuit once it is presented with facts about its lack of involvement in controlling and operating the business on its property.

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Karla Ray

Karla Ray, WFTV.com

Karla Ray anchors Eyewitness News This Morning on Saturday and Sundays, and is an investigative reporter for the 9 Investigates unit.

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