In a novel application of consumer protection law, Los Angeles County attorneys announced Friday that the Pomona motel owner had agreed to a court settlement that restricts its business and aims to stop sex trafficking and prostitution on the premises.
The owner of the motel, Pomona Lodge, agreed to stop renting rooms every hour and, among other things, to hand over security material to law enforcement authorities upon request.
The Los Angeles District Attorney's Office said the settlement marks the first time prosecutors have used consumer protection laws to locate properties where sex is sold and people are traded. The county prosecutor alleged the motel was a public nuisance and that its owners violated the state's business rules and anti-red lights act – a law passed 107 years ago to close brothels.
The terms of the settlement remain in place for four years, and the motel owners also pay a $ 9,000 fine.
The motel is owned by Kanu and Hemlata Patel, according to state business records. Attempts to reach her on Friday were unsuccessful. A lawyer representing the motel didn't return requests for comment on Friday.
Two years ago, undercover agents noticed worrying signs at the brown and brown motel on Holt Avenue in Pomona, sandwiched between a health clinic and a jack in the box. The Pomona police know the area as "The Blade". They regularly arrest dozens of men there, many of them from out of town, for soliciting sexual acts from undercover police officers, the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin reported earlier this year.
A councilor who said his own wife had been interviewed at a pastry shop on Holt Avenue complained that Pomona had become known as a place to buy sex.
"If you are a woman in Pomona, someone will try to offer you money for sex. That's how it turned out," Councilor Rubio Gonzalez told the newspaper.
According to prosecutors, the receptionist at Pomona Lodge, Ravirajsinh N. Zala, has rented rooms to sex workers and has asked for their income to be cut.
25-year-old Zala is charged with pimping four times and trafficking minors for a commercial sex act. He pleaded not guilty on all four counts and is expected to begin his trial this month.
Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. Jackie Lacey said in a new press release that the civil lawsuit against the motel was intended to be a "warning" to owners of properties that sell sex. Lacey said her MPs would prosecute anyone "who tacitly gives sanctuary to these criminals, disregards their victims, and profits financially from these crimes."