June 3, 2013
THE W SOUTH BEACH hotel in Miami Beach bills itself as the "playground of the cool," but a South Jersey woman claims the hotel is the playground of prostitutes, some of whom she says attacked her in the lobby when they mistook her for competition.
Anna Burgese and her husband, Joseph, of Medford, last week filed a civil lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Camden against Starwood Hotels & Resorts, which operates the swanky W South Beach on Collins Avenue.
In their suit, the Burgeses claim that not only did employees at the W fail to detain the tussling tramps after the attack, they even helped them escape in a taxi before police arrived.
The Burgeses' attorney, Lance Rogers of Bryn Mawr, said the hotel has been uncooperative with the investigation and has refused to turn over surveillance video of the alleged attack.
"The Burgeses want justice, they want [the alleged attackers] caught and prosecuted," Rogers told the Daily News yesterday. "The hotel has done absolutely nothing to help them and, in fact, has stood in the way of the process."
The couple frequently visited the hotel, so much so that they stored a car there, Rogers said. They never had any problems before, but when they went for a vacation in January, things quickly went awry, according to the suit.
The Burgeses were returning with another couple from dinner and a night at the hotel's club in the early-morning hours of Jan. 19 and had to walk through a hotel bar to reach the lobby and their rooms, Rogers said.
The bar is where prostitutes routinely pick up clients, according to Rogers.
"It makes sense these prostitutes are going to go where they can find people who can afford to pay them the money they're seeking," Rogers said.
Joseph Burgese, who was on crutches at the time, was a few steps ahead of his wife when, from "out of the blue and without any warning," Anna Burgese was grabbed from behind, thrown face-first into a stone wall and then picked up and thrown to the ground, Rogers said.
More than one fighting floozy - perhaps as many as 10 - got involved in the attack, either by watching it, supporting it, participating in it or helping the alleged attackers escape, Rogers said.
Using his crutches, Joseph Burgese tried to fight off the hostile harlots and told hotel staff to hold the women until police arrived, Rogers said.
Anna Burgese was taken to Mount Sinai Medical Center in Miami Beach, where she was treated for trauma to her face and knee, among other injuries, Rogers said.
Joseph Burgese later found out that the hotel employees he had asked to detain the hustling hussies not only let them go, but also put them into a taxi without asking for their identification, Rogers said.
"The attackers ended up jumping into a taxicab with the assistance of hotel staff," Rogers said. "The attackers left before police could realize what was happening."
The Burgeses cut their trip short and returned home several days early because of the attack, according to Rogers.
The suit claims that Miami Beach police told the Burgeses that the attackers were prostitutes who may have been under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and that they may have thought Anna Burgese was "another prostitute who was capturing business at the hotel."
In other words, they thought she was courtesan competition.
"It was like a territory battle for them," Rogers said of the combative coquettes.
In the suit, Rogers said the hotel "fosters a prostitute-friendly environment where prostitutes are permitted to market themselves on premises."
He said he based his allegations on police statements and on reviews from other hotel guests on travel websites, including one on TripAdvisor.com from a woman in Birmingham, Ala., who wrote in May 2012 that "prostitution at the hotel bar was rampant."
Rogers said the police have an open file on the attack but have made no arrests.
"From the minute this happened, the hotel management and staff became very elusive and not willing to participate with the Burgeses about what happened," he said.
Anna Burgese, a "petite, law-abiding, wholesome" woman, has lived in fear since the attack, according to Rogers.
"It was a vacation gone wrong," he said. "If this could happen to her, it could happen to anybody."
A staff member at the W South Beach said management had no comment, and several messages to Starwood Hotels & Resorts public-relations representatives were not returned yesterday.