U.S. Attorney’s Office moves to seize Roanoke Co. motel

Published: Sep. 27, 2022 at 7:14 PM EDT
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ROANOKE Co., Va. (WDBJ) - Federal officials in western Virginia are moving to seize a Roanoke County motel they describe as a haven for drugs and commercial sex trafficking.

Tuesday afternoon, they said they are also sending a message to other business owners in the region who are profiting from criminal activity.

U.S. Attorney Chris Kavanaugh said between 2018 and 2020, the Knights Inn was the base of operations for a drug trafficker who distributed heroin, powder cocaine and crack cocaine in the region.

But that wasn’t all the investigation uncovered. The motel, he said, was also a center of commercial sex trafficking.

“The U.S. has given notice to the owner and operator of this facility of our intent to seize and civilly forfeit the property,” Kavanaugh said during a news conference outside the motel. “Our investigation revealed the owner and operator of this property was aware of the narcotics distribution and sex trafficking that occurred here at the Knights Inn. It was encouraged, and he profited from it.”

Roanoke County police know the Knights Inn well.

Over the last three years, officers have responded to more than 1,100 calls for service and 350 criminal offenses, of which 153 were drug-related.

“We responded to 24 overdoses, of which two were fatal, and made over 150 arrests,” said Assistant Police Chief Jimmy Chapman.

Kavanaugh said the notice to seize the Knights Inn should send a message to other business owners who might be profiting from criminal activity on their property.

“If you’re sticking your head in the sand, or you are complicit, or even worse if you’re encouraging it, we will use the federal law to seize that property to protect the victims of that criminal activity, to protect our communities and most of all to protect our citizens of the western district of Virginia,” Kavanaugh said.

We spoke off camera with a representative of the Knights Inn we believe to be the owner. He said he didn’t know anything about the federal action and had been advised by his attorney not to comment.

The notice to seize the property did not have an immediate effect on the operation of the motel.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office must go to court to prove the facts that were outlined during the news conference before the government can seize the Knights Inn.