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A Chicago woman filed a lawsuit against Hilton Worldwide Friday, alleging that a hotel employee at a Hampton Inn and Suites property in Albany, New York, used a camera hidden in her hotel room shower to film her against her knowledge or consent. The plaintiff, identified only as Jane Doe, said that the alleged perpetrator attempted to blackmail and extort her with the footage, going so far as to send it to her colleagues and post it online alongside of her full name and identifying professional information.
While the woman’s stay at the Hampton Inn and Suites in Albany took place in 2015, Jane Doe said that she had no idea that she had been filmed until Sept. 30 of this year. On that date, she received an email from an unknown source that linked to her video, which had been uploaded to a pornography website under her full name.
“I click on it and I see my face and profile in a bathroom and I start screaming,” she said. “It was devastating on kind of a cellular level because I didn’t know… I had no clue, I had no context for this. My initial reaction was, ‘Your life is absolutely ruined, people are going to see this, they are going to see you naked and they are going to assume things.'”
Doe said that the situation only escalated from there. The unknown perpetrator continued to email her throughout the coming weeks, sending messages saying, “I’m a perv. I don’t hurt anyone. I like to watch,” on Oct. 1. “No need to worry about me. I just like to watch and then I move on to the next. Promise me my own show. That’s the hottest. No need to show your face. Then I disappear and remove the videos forever before they get copied on every website.”
When Doe did not comply with the emailed demands, the threats became even more sinister. In exchange for deleting the video online, the suspect demanded a $2,000 payment outright, followed by a monthly fee of $1,000 for the following year, Doe said in her lawsuit. When she did not follow through, the extortionist proceeded to email the video link to Doe’s colleagues, and also uploaded more copies of the same video to about a dozen other pornographic websites.
Doe told “Good Morning America” that she now has to spend significant time each day monitoring the Internet for mentions of her name. Whenever the video crops up, she has to petition the site to have it removed. “Every time this person posts this video, he posts my full name,” Doe said. “It’s sadistic, and it’s designed to terrorize me and force me into a place where I feel like I have to give into his demands and give him more photos or give him money. He did this so that whenever someone Googles me, they’re going to see this.”
While the suspect’s “precise identity” is not yet known, Doe’s attorney, Roland Christiansen, believes the evidence points to a hotel employee or someone who would have similar free access to the hotel rooms, especially since the suspect also had Doe’s full name and other identifying information. Christiansen told Newsweek that he had evidence of at least one other video against another former hotel guest from the same room, and that there’s reason to believe a “significant amount of others” had fallen victim to the same perpetrator.
“We have seen evidence that there is at least one other video,” Christiansen said. “We have evidence, we haven’t seen all of the other videos, but we have reason to believe there is a significant amount of others and that this room that my client stayed in was used repeatedly to film people over an extended period.”
Doe is suing Hilton Worldwide and its various franchise partners, including Hampton Inn and Suites, for emotional distress and negligence.
The Hampton Inn and Suites Albany-Downtown released a statement, saying, “The safety and security of our guests is our highest priority. We will continue to work with the authorities to discover the perpetrator and see that s/he is held accountable.”
Parent company Hilton Worldwide also released a statement to the press: “On Monday, December 3, we were alerted by ABC News to details of an alleged incident at the Hampton Inn and Suites Albany-Downtown in 2015. We take the safety and wellbeing of our guests incredibly seriously, and find the details included in the civil filing distressing. We commit to supporting the independent ownership and management of the property as they investigate, respond, and cooperate with any law enforcement investigations.”
Meanwhile, Doe has been working to protect herself as best as she can in the aftermath of her ordeal. “I think the hardest conversation I had to have was with my dad in explaining that there’s videos of me up on multiple porn sites. It was probably the hardest conversation I’ve ever had to have in my life,” Doe told “Good Morning America.” “I don’t know if that’s something you ever truly recover from.”
5:00 pm ET update: This post has been edited to reflect the fact that the Hampton Inn and Suites Albany-Downtown is independently owned and operated, according to a Hilton spokesperson.
Featured photo courtesy of Hampton Inn and Suites Albany-Downtown.
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