FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF
Felicia H. Ellsworth, with whom Cynthia D. Vreeland, Jason H.
Liss, Lucy Heenan Ewins, and Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and
Dorr LLP were on brief, for appellant.
Michael David Resnick, with whom John B. Reilly and John
Reilly & Associates were on brief, for appellees.
Lynch, Circuit Judge, Souter, Associate Justice,
and Selya, Circuit Judge.
RICHARD G. STEARNS, U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE.
SOUTER, Associate Justice. Lisa
Ricchio brought actions for civil liability under the
Trafficking Victims Protection Act against four defendants,
including Ashvinkumar Patel, Sima Patel, and Bijal, Inc. As
to them, the district court dismissed under Federal Rule of
Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), for failure to state a claim. We
purposes of this review of the dismissal motion and order,
the allegations and inferences favorable to Ricchio may be
summarized briefly. See SEC v. Tambone, 597 F.3d
436, 441 (1st Cir. 2010) (en banc) (at the 12(b)(6) stage,
"we accept as true all well-pleaded facts set out in the
complaint and indulge all reasonable inferences in favor of
the pleader"). At the relevant time, the Shangri-La
Motel was owned by the defendant Bijal, Inc., and operated by
the Patel defendants, husband and wife, who themselves lived
there. In June 2011, Clark McLean enticed Ricchio to drive
from Maine to the Shangri-La in Massachusetts, where he took
her captive and held her against her will. Over the course of
several days there, McLean physically and sexually abused
Ricchio, repeatedly raping her, starving and drugging her,
and leaving her visibly haggard and bruised. He told her that
he was grooming her for service as a prostitute subject to
his control. McLean had prior commercial dealings with the
Patels, which the parties wished to reinstate for profit.
McLean and Mr. Patel enthusiastically expressed this intent
by exchanging high-fives in the motel's parking lot while
speaking about "getting this thing going again, "
in circumstances in which McLean's coercive and abusive
treatment of Ricchio as a sex slave had become apparent to
the Patels. Ms. Patel had not only nonchalantly ignored
Ricchio's plea for help in escaping from McLean's
custody at the motel but, when visiting the rented quarters
to demand further payment, had shown indifference to
Ricchio's obvious physical deterioration. And in plain
daylight view of the front office of the motel, either of the
Patels on duty there would have seen McLean grab Ricchio,
kick her, and force her back toward the rented quarters when
she had tried to escape. In these circumstances, it was a
plausible understanding that McLean was forcing sex in the
motel room where he held Ricchio hostage, and fairly
inferable that the gainful business that Mr. Patel and McLean
spoke of had been and would be in supplying sexual
gratification. It is likewise inferable that the Patels
understood that in receiving money as rent for the quarters
where McLean was mistreating Ricchio, they were associating
with him in an effort to force Ricchio to serve their
Claims 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, and 7 of the complaint, these allegations
and inferences suffice as plausible support for pleading
statutory violations by the Patel defendants in their own
right and as agents for renting out Bijal's motel space,
and by Bijal in consequence of the Patels' agency.
See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (to
survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint "must contain
sufficient factual matter . . . to 'state a claim to
relief that is plausible on its face'" (quoting
Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570
(2007))); see also Decotiis v. Whittemore, 635 F.3d
22, 29 (1st Cir. 2011) ("Applying the plausibility
standard is 'a context-specific task that requires the
reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common
sense.'" (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679)).
support of this conclusion, we note the following points of
congruence between the extensive allegations just summarized
and provisions of the discursive Act. In doing this we do not
mean to imply that the complaint does not support claims
under other provisions. Our point is merely that it
withstands the general dismissal motion.
Claim 1, under 18 U.S.C. §§ 1589 and
1595(a): The defendants' association with
McLean was a "venture, " that is, a "group of
two or more individuals associated in fact, " §
1591(e)(5), in conducting which the Patels (and hence Bijal)
knowingly benefited, that is, "receiv[ed something] of
value, " § 1589(b), through renting space in which
McLean obtained, among other things, forced sexual labor or
services from Ricchio. United States v. Cook, 782
F.3d 983, 988 (8th Cir. 2015) ("The phrase 'anything
of value' [in the Act] is extremely broad."). The
Patels acted, at the least, in reckless disregard of the fact
that the venture included such conduct on McLean's part.
See 18 U.S.C. § 1589(b); United States v.
Kaufman, 546 F.3d 1242, 1259-63 (10th Cir. 2008)
(holding that "labor or services" in § 1589 is
not limited to "work in an economic sense" and
extends to forced sexual acts). The defendants' knowing
benefit from that conduct entitles Ricchio to damages under
the derivative civil liability provision of § 1595(a) in
the instance of this claim and by like application under
those that follow.
Claim 2, under §§ 1590 and 1595(a): In continuing
to rent him the room after McLean's conduct was manifest,
the Patels knowingly harbored Ricchio at the Shangri-La Motel
for the purpose of McLean's object of obtaining her
sexual labor or services. See § 1590(a);
Kaufman, 546 F.3d at 1259-63.
Claim 3, under §§ 1591 and 1595(a): The defendants
knowingly benefitted from the venture with McLean, since they
knew, or at least recklessly disregarded, the factual
prospect that force or threats of force would be used to
cause Ricchio to engage in a commercial sex act. See
Claim 5, under § 1594(b) and (c), and § 1595(a):
The venture constituted a conspiracy to violate §§
1589, 1590, and 1591 (see Claims 1, 2, and 3), the necessary
overt acts including the harboring of Ricchio and the receipt
of the benefit noted above. See United States v.
Ngige, 780 F.3d 497, 503 (1st Cir. 2015) (discussing the
requirements of a conspiracy generally).
Claim 6, under §§ 1594(a) and 1595(a): The
defendants at the least attempted to violate §§
1589, 1590, and 1591 (see Claims 1, 2, and 3), the necessary
substantial steps including the harboring of Ricchio and the
receipt of benefit. See United States v. Turner, 501
F.3d 59, 68 (1st Cir. 2007) ("While 'mere
preparation' does not constitute a substantial step [for
the purposes of attempt], a defendant 'does not have to
get very far along the line toward ultimate commission of the