A Chicago woman is suing hotel operator Hilton Worldwide for $100 million, claiming an employee took nude footage of her without her consent and used it in an extortion attempt.
The woman, who asked to remain anonymous, said an employee at the Hampton Inn and Suites in Albany, New York, used a hidden camera to record her in the shower during the summer of 2015 and tried to blackmail her with the footage earlier this year.
“It was like I had been hit by a truck. It just knocked the wind out of me, the woman said in an exclusive interview. “I had no idea who took the video. I had no idea who this guy was, and all I could think is my life is over.”
She said the footage was taken in July 2015 but she didn’t find out until September when someone uploaded the video to a pornographic website and emailed her the link.
“I click on it and I see my face and profile in a bathroom and I start screaming she said “I just immediately started screaming. 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.”
She received another email from the same address later that night, promising to expose the video as well as her full name, school and place of employment unless she sent nude footage of herself, according to the lawsuit.
I don’t hurt anyone. I like to watch,” the suspect wrote to her in a subsequent email, according to the lawsuit. “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.”
Another email said: “Are you here still? I know it’s you. I don’t want to embarrass you. Please reply before it’s too late to stop it.”
Things got even worse when the alleged extortionist began distributing the video to the woman’s colleagues and threatened to send it wider when she refused to pay him $2,000 up front and $1,000 per month for the next year, according to the lawsuit.
“It was just absolutely traumatizing because these are people I went to law school with,” she said. “They’re friends, they’re coworkers. And they were sent a link to what looks like an email I sent.
The video of her was posted on at least a dozen pornography sites by the end of the ordeal, she said adding that she’s been forced to continually look online for additional postings of the recording so she can petition for their removal.
“Every time this person posts this video, he posts my full name,” the woman 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 in to 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.”
Now, she’s suing Hilton Worldwide, including its various franchise partners, for emotional distress, and she’s accusing the company of negligence.
Her attorney has not identified the suspect’s “precise identity” yet, but they’re holding the hotel responsible because the suspect ended up with the woman’s name and other personal info that she provided to the hotel, according to the suit.
Her attorney, Roland Christiansen, claims there’s footage from another guest from the same room.
“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.”
Hilton said it plans to work with authorities to investigate the matter.
“The safety and security of our guests is our highest priority,” the company said in a statement. “We will continue to work with the authorities to discover the perpetrator and see that s/he is held accountable.”
As for the victim, she said she’s still working to restore her image and clear her name.
“I think the hardest conversation I had to have was with my dad in explaining that there are videos of me up on multiple porn sites. It was probably the hardest conversation I’ve ever had to have in my life,” she said. I don’t know if that’s something you ever truly recover from.