BARTONSVILLE, MONROE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) – A well-known local businessman is in jail facing serious charges. Authorities say the hotel operator allowed and profited from drug and sex trafficking. Eyewitness News exclusively spoke with the man’s uncle, who also owns the hotel.
On Tuesday, a federal grand jury indicted Faizal Bhimani, the General Manager of Howard Johnson in Bartonsville. Investigators believe criminal activity has been going on at the hotel since June 2014.
“I was shocked. Very, very shocked,” says Nazim Hassam, Howard Johnson owner.
Nazim Hassam can’t believe the charges against his nephew, 41-year-old Faizal Bhimani.
“He’s a wonderful person. He’s not that kind of person,” Hassam says.
Hassam says Bhimani has run Howard Johnson for the past seventeen years. He doesn’t believe his nephew is involved with drug or human trafficking.
“Whatever I heard about it was a surprise to me yesterday,” Hassam adds.
According to federal documents, Bhimani allowed cocaine to be made, stored and sold at the hotel. He also allegedly helped recruit, solicit and transport prostitutes. Investigators say victims were forced, threatened and coerced to engage in commercial sex acts.
Hassam explains, “just to let you guys know, he’s not that, what everybody’s saying.”
Hassam tells us the FBI raided every corner of his hotel Wednesday. Agents were there five hours.
They searched rooms and safes, also taking guest records and Bhimani’s computer.
“As far as my knowledge, they found nothing,” Hassam adds.
Hassam says prostitution is a big problem at many hotels and motels throughout Monroe County, but employees’ hands are often times tied.
He adds, “what happens in the rooms, behind the door when the person checks in, we don’t know that.”
According to the federal indictment, Faizal Bhimani was arraigned Wednesday and plead ‘Not Guilty’. He is due back in Federal Court November 3rd.
The Howard Johnson is still open for business.
Authorities also indicted OM SRI SAI, Inc., which is the entity that owns the hotel.