NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - The owner of a New Orleans East motel pleaded guilty Wednesday to financially benefiting from a sex trafficking scheme operated out of the motel, according to an FBI news release.
Kanubhai Patel, also known as Mr. Kenny and Pop, 74, of Kenner, pleaded guilty to one count of benefitting financially from human trafficking. The FBI said several women were forced to work as prostitutes at the Riviera Motel in the 6000 block of Chef Menteur Highway.
"This defendant callously profited from a sex-trafficking venture that used force, fraud and coercion to compel women to engage in commercial sex acts," said U.S. Attorney Kenneth Polite. "These crimes often pass without detection because victims live in fear from physical abuse, threats and other forms of coercion. My office is committed to prosecuting individuals and organizations that profit from this illegal conduct."
According to evidence presented in court and documents filed in connection with the case, Patel regularly rented rooms to individuals charged as sex trafficking co-conspirators in the case, knowing they were pimps who forced and coerced women to engage in prostitution. Patel admitted that although he never recruited, groomed or coerced any of the victims, he made money from the operation.
Evidence presented in court showed that Patel would charge the pimps higher rates than other motel guests and would open the motel's gate to allow the women to bring customers back to the motel. According to prosecutors, Patel learned that members of the operation physically assaulted women they prostituted, including one instance in which a woman was beaten with a large piece of wood. Patel also saw the damage that occurred during a beating in one of the rooms, including a broken toilet, a damaged sink and blood on the walls. Patel agreed not to call the police after he was paid for the damage. Prosecutors said Patel also knew that the pimps would take the women's ID from them and use it to rent rooms. Patel didn't report them to police as long as they paid their rent.
Patel faces a statutory maximum sentence of five years in prison.
Five others have pleaded guilty in connection with the case. Zacchaeus Taylor, 22, Laquentin Brown, 33, and Anthony Ellis, 26, pleaded guilty to sex-trafficking conspiracy and to transportation for purposes of prostitution. All of these defendants are from Memphis, Tennessee, and each faces a statutory maximum sentence of five years in prison for conspiracy and a statutory maximum sentence of 10 years in prison for transportation for prostitution
On April 20, 2015, Duane Phillips, 29, and Christopher Williams, 30, also of Memphis, each pleaded guilty to sex trafficking conspiracy. They each face a statutory maximum sentence of life in prison.