Sworn affidavits from police, nearby residents and business owners and even former dealers and guests paint shocking picture of illicit activity at motel near downtown Sanford
After years of complaints from nearby residents and businesses and mounting reports of criminal activity — from drug arrests to physical assaults and even murder — the city of Sanford has filed a formal complaint against the owners of the Prince Down Town with the state of North Carolina, calling the business a “public nuisance” and requesting a preliminary injunction that would essentially close the motel pending a trial.
The official 92-page complaint — filed on June 14 against against former Prince owner Bhadresh Shah and current owner Amita Naik and her husband (and motel general manager) Paresha Naik — includes roughly 50 pages of sworn affidavits from police officers, residents and business owners within walking distance of the motel and even former motel residents and convicted drug offenders who admitted to selling and buying illicit drugs (heroin, cocaine and crystal meth) on the property in the last five years.
Two testimonies allude to an April 2019 article published in The Rant Monthly that detailed a laundry list of complaints and police reports at the property over a year’s time.
The city is being represented by James Thornton of Raleigh-based Cranfill, Sumner and Hartzog, LLP. Shah, owner of Padmavati LLC and a Sanford resident, and the Naiks (Om Shree Hemakash Corporation) have 30 days from June 14 to appear before the state superior court and provide an answer to the complaint.
The complaint itself is full of hard-hitting testimonies — much of it common knowledge to those familiar with the Prince and its reputation as a haven for drugs and prostitution. Some of it is still shocking to hear. A former resident of the motel from 2019-2020 (whose name we will not include in this article but is included in the affidavit) said he sold crack cocaine and heroin on the property “as many as 50 time per day” and even sold to the general manager (Paresha Paik) at times.
“I provided crack cocaine to the manager more than five times,” he said. “When the manager wanted crack, he always came inside my room. Most of the time, he paid for the cocaine, except twice he told me to take the money out of what I paid for my room.”
The man also alleged that a woman performed a sexual act with the manager in exchange for rent.
Another witness (again, name withheld) said she frequented the Prince about two years ago to purchase $200 worth of crack twice a week. She testified knowing of “at least six or seven people overdosing on drugs at the property” and said her friend, Dedrick Lipscomb, was in jail for the June 2021 shooting death of Marquas Roseboro after, she claimed, Roseboro was trying to rob him on the property.
“Most of the drug dealers do not live at the property, they just go there to sell drugs,” she said. “I have personally observed people selling dope in front of Pete [Paresha Naik], and he did not do anything about it.”
A woman whose daughter died from a drug overdose at the Prince in December 2021 testified that her daughter was provided a room at the Prince by members of a group called “The Heavy Hitters” or “The Weekenders,” and they would arrange for men to come by and pay to have sex with the women there.
“They would keep all the money being paid to have sex with the girls. My daughter was one of those girls,” she said. “I know she would still be alive today if the property had tried to stop all the crime and drug use from happening. I know the reason my daughter is dead is because of the property.”
Sanford attorney Jon Silverman is representing the Prince’s owners in the lawsuit and said “they’re just hard working immigrants chasing the American dream.”
“That nuisance statute was designed for people running drug dens, liquor dens, places of ill repute,” he said. “They’re just trying to run a low budget motel.”
Asked to address the specific allegations in the lawsuit and whether the owners contested, Silverman said he hadn’t read the complaint, but “I do contest that it’s a nuisance and I do contest that it’s any worse than any of the many other places in Sanford like it.”
‘A PRETTY BAD OPERATOR’
Sanford Mayor Chet Mann said the process of initiating the complaint has been ongoing for “at least two or three years,” and that Roseboro’s shooting death in 2021 “really turned up the heat.”
“We called the [State Bureau of Investigation], and they were very cooperative with our police department,” he said. “They began an investigation and began conducting interviews. I think they did at least 100 interviews, and they looked at the crime records and other things. That alone took the better part of a year. You can be a pretty bad operator and the rights afforded to you can make the process pretty long.”
According to Mann, the owners will have an opportunity to sell the property before it’s shut down, but also steps are being taken to ensure it can’t be used for lodging ever again.
“Our joy would be to see it get bought by a well-intentioned developer or company who would want to have a higher use for the property,” he said. “That corridor is going to be modernized and updated and it’s going to be a prime location.”
Local real estate broker Steve Malloy of Adcock and Associates said he’s got interest from a local buyer who “wants to see [The Prince] gone.”
“I think the people we’ve heard from have a vision that’s well above a hotel like that, and they feel like changing that will help Sanford greatly,” he said.
Another challenge Mann noted is taking care of the law-abiding residents who will need somewhere to stay. That process is already being looked at in conjunction with organizations like Outreach Mission and the city’s S3 Housing Connect.
In April of 2019, The Rant Monthly published a lengthy piece on the escalating problems emanating from the Prince property. From January 2017 through February 2019, more than 130 calls were made to the Sanford Police Department regarding complaints or alleged crimes at the motel. From those calls, more than 40 arrests were made in that two-year span, many of them on physical assault and drug- or alcohol-related charges.
The article featured an interview onsite with “Bob,” a man who was renting a room there at the time.
“It is what it is,” he said at the time. “It’s a place for drugs. A place for prostitution. But it’s also just a place for some people who are down on their luck. It happens to everybody. Everybody knows what’s going on here, and nobody’s doing anything about it.”
The formal complaint filed on June 14 adds to the mounting list of criminal activities at the Prince over the last 10-plus years. It specifies several incidents from a two-month span in 2021 alone:
- June 16, 2021: SPD responded to a drug overdose and performed CPR (and applied NARCAN) to the victim before transferring them to the hospital.
- June 19, 2021: SPD responded to two drug overdoses — one in a bathroom (revived with NARCAN) and another found inside a room, barely breathing, after using heroin and crystal meth.
- June 26, 2021: A victim was robbed on the property by a young man who pointed a handgun to his head and demanded personal items.
- June 28, 2021: Two days after the June 26 assault, SPD responded to a shooting and found Marquas Roseboro, who later died of his wounds.
- July 1, 2021: SPD seized marijuana and drug paraphernalia from a vehicle.
- Aug. 9, 2021: SPD encountered two women involved in a fight, one armed with a baseball bat and the other with a crutch.
The testimonies from members of the Sanford Police Department and nearby residents offer a broader look at the continuous problems coming from the property.
SPD Capt. Marshall McNeill said he first became familiar with the Prince in 1999 and has seen call volume from the site increase dramatically over the years. He said members of SPD’s Narcotics Division have purchased illegal drugs from people on the property on several occasions, and they’ve been called to the motel several times for drug overdoses.
“Parents of overdose victims have told me the property is known through the community as a place where addicts know they can always come to purchase illegal drugs,” McNeill said in his testimony. “I have talked to Paresha Naik in the past about the ongoing drug and criminal activity taking place at the property. I don’t feel he has done anything to stop the activity.”
SPD Sgt. William Berryman said that in his experience, most of the people patronizing the motel are “drug users, drug dealers or have some type of substance abuse problem.”
“There are a few people there who are hardworking people and unfortunately, they have to deal with the ongoing drug and criminal activity taking place,” he said.
Both McNeill and Berryman also testified to prostitution at the Prince, with Berrman recalling a sexual assault involving a woman who was paid for sex, but she refused to prosecute the man.
Another former resident of the motel testified, “Each day, the manager will come out around at 11 a.m. to collect rent. If these girls do not have the rent, they will trade sex for money so they can stay another night.”
Also prominent in the affidavits are testimonies from nearby residents.
Citizens in the Sunset and Vance Street area complain about the people from the property that walk through their neighborhood,” SPD officer Raun Beard testified. “People from the property will go through this neighborhood using drugs, stealing from cars and homes. I believe they commit these crimes so they can come back to the property and purchase drugs. From my experience as an officer, thefts are one way to support addiction.”
Sanford City Councilman Jimmy Haire, whose home in the Rosemont McIver Historic District is within a block of the motel, said he and his wife have observed multiple drug transactions from their home.
“People in our neighborhood have become fearful,” he testified. “My wife and I added surveillance equipment as protection specifically because people from the property were committing crimes in the neighborhood. My wife and I will not let our grandkids play freely in the neighborhood, because we have to protect them from the crimes taking place.”
Two business owners on Carthage Street testified to seeing drug transactions in front of their businesses and dealing with people from the motel entering their buildings to ask for money. One business owner said she’s had customers harassed by residents of the motel and customers who have requested assistance getting to their cars out of fear.
Probation/parole officer Lisa Harden said she knows some probation officers who will not go to the Prince without another officer, because “it has a history of violence.”
“I have personally had probationers state they would live in their car before living at the property because of the drug and criminal activity was so bad,” Harden testified. “In the past, I had a probationer refuse to live there because he was a recovering addict and there was too much drug activity taking place in the parking lot. He was concerned about his addiction.”
SPD communications supervisor Daryl Kirby said some EMS crews will not go to the Prince without being accompanied by a Sanford Police officer.
Finally, a former Sanford resident provided a powerful testimony where he described confronting a resident of the motel in his fenced-in yard, having the front door of his home kicked in by an intruder and having his mother-in-law’s home (a block over) invaded by a man staying at the Prince.
“We poured our finances, emotion, and souls into restoring (our home), and despite all this, we were left with no choice except to move both my mother-in-law out of her home and my family out of our home,” he testified. “all because of living in a constant state of fear for our safety.”