Atlanta

Testimony showed customers complained of underage prostitution at Red Roof Inns

ATLANTA — Testimony continued in a legal battle against a national hotel chain.

Sex trafficking survivors are suing the Red Roof Inn and other corporate entities for ignoring and profiting from the problem.

Friday was the first time anyone got a chance to actually see guest complaints that were emailed to the former VP of Operations.

One includes an allegation of underage prostitution. A former employee told jurors he never received sex trafficking training, but he did at a different hotel he worked for.

The lawsuit brought on by 11 women, says Red Roof Inn and other corporate entities did nothing about sex trafficking at two of its properties from 2009 to 2018.

On Friday jurors saw video of a deposition. That’s when the former VP of Operations for Red Roof Inn was questioned about guest complaints he received via email, including an allegation of underage prostitution at one of the properties.

He couldn’t recall how he responded to complaints but said when he visited the Buckhead and Smyrna properties, his main concern was cleanliness.

But when a former Red Roof Inn employee took the stand, he told jurors the VP saw what was really going on before Forrest Castel was fired from the Smyrna location.

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He said underage girls were being sold on the property and that pimps were overseers.

He claimed that 50% of the motel’s revenue came from prostitution and said he called the police when there were fights.

During cross-examination, Castel admitted he smoked weed and partied with pimps.

He said he knew some were in gangs and violent towards women and knew some of the pimps had guns and was afraid.

Castel said he provided transportation for prostitutes who needed it, and when asked if he ever drove them to the police or a safe house, Castel said he didn’t because they didn’t ask, and he said at the time he didn’t know what a safe house was.

Castel also denied being a lookout out for pimps after the defendant’s attorneys said he was accused of being one.

The defendant’s attorney showed Castel his own words from a 2021 deposition where he said he never called police for criminal activity, stating that his safety was more important than the safety of the hotel.

In court, he said he did call the police from time to time.

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Michele Newell

Michele Newell, WSB-TV

Michele Newell has been part of the WSB-TV family since November 2021. Before moving to Atlanta, Michele worked at TV news stations in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Columbus, Ohio and Steubenville, Ohio.

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