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Is hotel chain a hooker haven?

A couples' lawsuit claims the W Hotel chain tolerates prostitution at its properties.

A SOUTH JERSEY couple claims in a recent legal filing that undercover investigators found that the W Hotel chain embraces prostitution, allowing hookers to ply their trade with complete impunity.

The allegations were made by Anna and Joseph Burgese, of Medford, N.J., in a request for a change of venue in a personal-injury lawsuit they filed against Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc., parent company of W Hotels, in June 2013.

The personal-injury suit was prompted by an attack in January 2013 on Anna Burgese in the lobby of the South Beach W Hotel in Miami Beach by several drunken prostitutes who mistook her for a competing sex worker, the suit says.

One or more of the women attacked her from behind, driving her face into a stone wall and hurling her into the lobby's marble floor, according to the suit. It also names up to 10 "Jane Does" as defendants and seeks more than $75,000 in damages.

The suit was filed in U.S. District Court in Camden and later amended, but a federal judge in April granted Starwood's motion to seal some materials, including video-surveillance footage from the night of the attack and hotel personnel files.

"It's a safe bet to say that the judge doesn't want us talking about what's in the sealed documents, or why the judge sealed them," Bruce Castor Jr., who represents the Burgeses, said last week.

Quinn M. McCusker, Starwood's lawyer, argued in his motion that "this material must be sealed as it pertains to plaintiffs' serious but unfounded allegations as to wrongdoing on the part of my clients. If not sealed, my clients would face serious injury and prejudice in that the plaintiffs' allegations will harm my clients' reputations."

However, the recent request for change of venue (the Burgeses wanted the case moved to South Florida, which was denied by U.S. District Judge Renee Marie Bumb last week) gives a hint of what's in the sealed documents.

The filing said the Burgeses had hired undercover agents to infiltrate W Hotels across the country.

"These agents engaged Starwood and W Hotels employees who openly, and without hesitation, procured the services of prostitutes for the agents," the filing said.

"When asked about getting caught and being prosecuted by law enforcement, the employees reassured the agents there was no risk of discovery.

"Starwood and W Hotel employees enticed the agents by sending them provocative pictures of prostitutes able to service them at W Hotels. . . . At one such W Hotel, a prostitute used the concierge desk to charge her cellphones and store her purse."

The filing also claimed that the W Hotel provides its guests with free condoms and sexual lubricant, and that its website advertises sex toys.

A manager at the Times Square New York W allegedly told undercover agents, "We manage [prostitution], we let it happen." He then allegedly directed agents to a hotel security guard who offered them a steady stream of strumpets, "like items off a menu."

When reached by email Friday, McCusker had no comment.

In their suit, the Burgeses claimed that on the night of the attack, they demanded hotel staff detain the bombarding bawds, but that instead employees ushered the women into nearby cabs before police arrived.

Oral arguments in the case are scheduled for early next month.