COLUMBUS, Ohio — More than 40 individual human trafficking lawsuits have been filed against hotel companies through attorney Steven Babin and his law firm, Babin Law.
"This is one of the most horrendous things that's happening in today's you know daily world that we have going on,” Babin said.
Babin said Ohio is the 4th largest state in the country for human trafficking and more than 95% of it happens in hotels.
"It's a problem that's been in the hospitality industry forever,” Babin said.
The lawsuits have been filed against major hotel companies including Wyndham Hotels and Resorts, Red Roof Inns, and Choice Hotels International for allowing trafficking to occur on their property and profiting from human trafficking.
"You're not allowed to make money from trafficking ventures, and they're clearly participating in a venture by making money off of every room that's rented,” Babin said.
Babin said his firm filed the first case in the country against a hotel for human trafficking in 2019 under a statute known as the Trafficking Victims Protection Act. Since then, he said they’ve filed other cases in different parts of the country with most of them being in the state of Ohio.
"We have horror stories where people were handcuffed to toilets and hotel staff comes in and nobody does anything about it,” Babin said.
We reached out to the hotels for comment and only received a statement from Red Roof inns, stating “The company has nothing to add at this time and would refer you to the court filings.”
Zach Klein, Columbus city attorney, said the city passed a hotel licensing system almost a decade ago when he was a city council member.
"We have the ability to yank the license if there's a significant number of police runs, if there's significant number of violence and crime, if there is evidence of human trafficking that is persistent and not addressed,” Klein said.
Klein said since implementing this system, those numbers have plummeted. He added that he believes the owners, especially at the local level, should be held accountable.
"They're the ears on the ground, they're the eyes on the activity that's happening and they see all of this transpiring right in front of their eyes,” Klein said.
Babin said he hopes the first of the forty cases will go to trial sometime next year.