By Jennifer Brice
With people moving into Colorado and conventions making a home in Denver, we are seeing the hospitality industry boom. With that comes another industry: the sex trade. It often finds a home within all types of hotels. CBS4’s Jennifer Brice sat down with a former madam who now works to educate hospitality staff about what to spot.
DENVER (CBS4) – You may not know Pasha Ripley, but you might remember the scandal she was part of back in early the 2000s. Ripley, a former Boulder-based madam, testified to a grand jury about providing prostitutes for University of Colorado Buffaloes football recruits during that timeframe.
“I thought it was going to be discreet,” said Ripley. “I didn’t realize what a big deal this would turn into.”
The scandal rocked the community, bringing changes to the university and its football program.
“The grand jury, of course, had questions about CU and the business relationship we had there,” she said.
Ripley worked in the sex trade for about 15 years. At times, she worked as an escort and ran her own service.
“I kept the business very small, low key and few people working for me at any given time.”
Ripley’s client list was exclusively men, off all professions.
“Construction workers up to police officers, magistrates, doctors, lawyers.”
Ripley says it is not usually the actual services that clients would pay for but rather the privacy.
“To walk away and not have to call, send flowers or enter into any relationship,” she said.
Ripley no longer works in the sex trade. She runs a nonprofit, Red Light Resources International, an anti-human trafficking organization that specifically works to educate hospitality staff about sex and labor trafficking.
She encourages hotel staff to not chastise but rather give them information when they see the sex trade going on inside their businesses.
“Rather than yell at them and kick them out of the hotel,” she said. “Maybe you slide them a business card across the counter to my nonprofit.”
She says the sex trade is alive, everywhere, at every kind of hotel.
“I used to have a deal with a head housekeeper. He would give me a free room and in exchange I would use that room to visit clients.”
Ripley says many hotels know the sex trade is there, some employees even profiting from it.
“Oftentimes the manager or owner will up the rack rate, so they’ll up the rate of the room so they make more money.”
Ripley trains hospitality staff to spot the signs of trafficking:
– Rooms paid for in cash, one day at a time
– New “guests” coming and going from the room, especially men
– Continuous refusal of housekeeping and the “Do Not Disturb” sign up for days
Ripley believes as more people move and visit Denver, even hold conventions here, it will only grow the oldest profession around.
“It’s never going away, so what can we do, (what) steps can we take to make it safe for everyone involved?” she said.