’Magnet’ for sex trafficking, drug sales
Los Angeles City Attorney Hydee Feldstein Soto has filed a lawsuit against the owners and operator of the New Gage Motel in South L.A. in an effort to address prostitution and crimes that occur at the property.
Feldstein Soto is seeking a permanent injunction to “eradicate” alleged prostitution and violent criminality that has occurred at this property since 2017, according to a statement from her office. The 16-unit motel, located at 6310 S. Figueroa St. is situated along one of the state’s most “notorious” prostitution tracks–the Figueroa corridor.
According to the city attorney’s office, the Figueroa corridor has a “near-constant” circulation of sex workers, customers and traffickers. Feldstein Soto’s civil action seeks to enjoin, abate and prevent this nuisance as defined under California’s Red Light Abatement Law, the Public Nuisance Law and the Unfair Competition Law.
“Prostitution and violence are thriving at the New Gage Motel, and this property has participated in and played an active role in facilitating the sex trafficking operation that has engulfed this corridor for far too long,” Feldstein Soto said in a statement. “The community has had enough, and today we are taking bold, decisive action to put a stop to it.”
The complaint states that since at least 2017 the Los Angeles Police Department has conducted more than a dozen vice investigations at the New Gage Motel, leading to 16 prostitution-related arrests, including one that involved the sex trafficking of a minor.
As recently as last month, LAPD investigations continued to reveal that the motel was being used as a hub for prostitution. In addition, the alleged property has been a “magnet” for violence and lawlessness, with armed robberies, assaults with deadly weapons and brutal muggings taking place during the last four months alone.
In March 2022, in an effort to address those issues, prosecutors from the city attorney’s office and LAPD officers met with representatives from Rish Investments, the owner and operator of the motel.
Rajesh Patel, CEO of Rish Investments, and Hitandra Bhakta, CFO and secretary of the company, were asked to implement a variety of physical and managerial measures to abate the nuisance, according to the city attorney’s office.
They were asked to comply with several requests, including prohibiting hourly room rentals, installing a gate around driveway to control access, installing security cameras in common areas and giving LAPD access to them, employing daily security patrols and hiring new management to enforce these regulations.
More than a year later, the owner and operator, which now includes Gazi Monirul Islam, who became involved in motel operations last year, have failed to implement or sustain most of those measures, according to the city attorney’s office. Criminal activity has grown more violent and volatile as well.
The city attorney’s lawsuit seeks injunctive relief and civil penalties against the defendants to change the way they manage and equip the property. In addition, the lawsuit seeks to enjoin and prevent violation of the Unfair Competition Law at the property based on unlawful business practices used to operate the motel, and to impose civil penalties stemming from these unlawful business practices.
The litigation is being managed by deputy city attorneys in the newly formed Public Rights Branch of the city attorney’s office. Feldstein Soto created the Public Rights Branch in an effort to protect and enforce the rights of California residents in a wide range of legal matters, including unfair or fraudulent business practices, consumer protection, environmental justice and nuisance abatement and intellectual property.