A lawsuit alleges the W Hotel chain is not only permitting sex workers to toil in its lobbies, but also protecting and managing them.
W Hotels are known for their hip amenities, but there is one service that the chain is insisting it does not allow — Prostitution. Anna and Joseph Burgese of Medford, N.J., beg to differ. As part of legal filings related to a personal-injury lawsuit, the couple accused W Hotels of allowing hookers to work in its lobbies, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer.
The allegations arose from a reported attack in the lobby of Miami’s South Beach W Hotel in January 2013, during which Anna Burgese claimed that intoxicated prostitutes assumed she was a sex worker encroaching on their turf and assaulted her. As a result, the Burgeses filed a lawsuit in June 2013 against Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide, W Hotels’ parent company, seeking more than $75,000 in damages.
In April 2014, a federal judge granted Starwood’s request to seal some of the suit’s documents. “It’s a safe bet to say that the judge doesn’t want us talking about what’s in the sealed documents, or why the judge sealed them,” said the Burgeses’ attorney, Bruce Castor Jr.
During his motion to have the documents sealed, Starwood’s lawyer, Quinn M. McCusker, stated:
[T]his material must be sealed as it pertains to plaintiffs’ serious but unfounded allegations as to wrongdoing on the part of my clients. If not sealed, my clients would face serious injury and prejudice in that the plaintiffs’ allegations will harm my clients’ reputations.
Paperwork recently filed regarding the trial’s venue and a request to move the case to South Florida — a request which was denied last week by US District Judge Renee Marie Bumb — indicates that the Burgeses hired undercover agents to investigate W Hotels nationwide. “These agents engaged Starwood and W Hotels employees who openly, and without hesitation, procured the services of prostitutes for the agents,” a portion of the filing read. It continued:
When asked about getting caught and being prosecuted by law enforcement, the employees reassured the agents there was no risk of discovery. Starwood and W Hotel employees enticed the agents by sending them provocative pictures of prostitutes able to service them at W Hotels … At one such W Hotel, a prostitute used the concierge desk to charge her cellphones and store her purse.
The allegations do not end there. According to the filing, an unnamed manager at the Times Square New York W told undercover agents, “We manage [prostitution], we let it happen.”
Oral arguments in the case are scheduled to begin in early November.
[Photo: Starwood Hotels & Resorts]