Dallas, Texas – The family of a Texas teenager who was kidnapped from a Dallas Mavericks game in April 2022 and trafficked to Oklahoma City over a 10-day period is now suing the hotel where she was assaulted. The victim was given alcohol and drugs, including methamphetamines, and was allegedly sold to an unknown adult male who transported her from Dallas to Oklahoma City. She was then taken to a convicted sex offender named Kenneth Levan Nelson. Oklahoma City authorities have since arrested eight suspects in connection with the crime. The family’s attorney, Zeke Fortenberry, expressed concerns about corporate responsibility and revealed that the hotel had previous reviews complaining of prostitution.
According to the lawsuit, Nelson rented multiple hotel rooms under a false name at the Extended Stay America – Oklahoma City – Airport Hotel, where the assault took place. The lawsuit also names Aimbridge Hospitality, the Plano-based group that employs workers at the hotel, as a defendant. The victim’s family is arguing that the hotel and its parent company profited off the trafficking case. The complaint alleges that the hotel should have noticed the signs of trafficking and made efforts to contact authorities.
The hotel manager’s employees either failed to recognize the signs of human trafficking or chose to turn a blind eye, according to the lawsuit. Fortenberry emphasized the need for corporate policies to be implemented on the ground, where it matters most. He stated that there were overwhelming red flags and that someone could have stepped in to help the victim.
Human trafficking is a serious issue, with an estimated $99 billion in profits from sexual exploitation reported in 2019. Hotels are often the primary location for sex trafficking activities. Fortenberry’s lawsuit highlights the importance of raising awareness about human trafficking and educating the public on how to identify and respond to this crime. He believes that the hotel’s corporate policies need to be focused on the ground.
The case surrounding the trafficking of the Texas teenager is complex with conflicting information. Initially, the victim’s family stated that she vanished from the game and believed she was kidnapped and trafficked. The Dallas Police Department later revealed that the girl met a suspect outside the arena, at which point he kidnapped her. The department categorized her disappearance as a runaway until the victim was found in Oklahoma City.
In October of last year, a Dallas County grand jury declined to indict a suspect, Emanuel Jose Cartagena, in connection with the case. Cartagena, a convicted sex offender, was later arrested in January 2023. Fortenberry expressed frustration with the criminal process and hopes for justice to be served.
This case brings attention to the issue of human trafficking and the responsibility of hotels to identify and respond to signs of trafficking. The victim’s family seeks justice through their lawsuit and aims to hold both the hotel and its parent company accountable for their alleged involvement in the trafficking case.