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New lawsuit accuses Topgolf of covering up for 'serial sexual predator' in 'dehumanizing, toxic work environment'

Three new victims sue in wake of Oct. 2020 lawsuit
Silvino Hinojosa mugshot
Topgolf-Vegas-Tee-Line-Evening-_Baxter Imaging.jpg
Posted at 7:52 PM, Mar 19, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-19 22:52:50-04

LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — A serial sexual predator attacking women on the job. A dehumanizing, toxic work environment and allegations of a corporate cover-up.

A new lawsuit filed Friday says this was happening behind the scenes at Topgolf as thousands enjoyed the high-tech driving range overlooking the Las Vegas Strip.

Attorney James Lee represents four victims, three of whom are being named for the first time in the new case.

"It's like Topgolf had a pool with a man-eating great white shark in it. And they knew it. And they just kept throwing people into it," said Lee, "and now they want to blame the shark."

Speaking on behalf of one client, Lee said, "She said something inside of her just broke."

For now, he's serving as the voice for victims too scared to speak publicly about what they say happened to them on-site while working at Topgolf.

"They have been hurt in profound ways that will change their lives forever."

We reported the first lawsuit alleging sexual assault and cover-up at Togolf in October.

PREVIOUS: Lawsuit filed against Topgolf after woman claims sexual assault by supervisor

"Ciara said that it was like working in hell," Lee said of Ciara Williams, who filed the initial suit and allowed her name to be made public.

She says she was subjected to daily sexual harassment, vulgar comments, and unwelcome touching and groping by her boss, sous chef Silvino Hinojosa.

When she reported it to a supervisor, Lee says that the supervisor "laughed and said, 'Sexual harassment is part of working in a kitchen. Get used to it.'"

The lawsuit says it only got worse.

"One day he finally followed her into the walk-in freezer and raped her," said Lee.

A co-worker who Williams confided in persuaded her to go to Human Resources.

"She wrote out what had happened to her -- that she'd been trapped in there and raped -- and that report was destroyed... Disappeared," Lee said, adding that Topgolf didn't stop there.

"They fabricated an interview with her in which she describes -- in this fabricated report -- she describes what happened to her in the walk-in freezer as, 'he put his hand on her shoulder.'"

Instead of taking action against Hinojosa, the lawsuit says Topgolf promoted him. Something not lost on other employees.

"The complaint discusses what was kind of a dark joke that if you want to get promoted at Topgolf you have to rape somebody," Lee said.

The new lawsuit filed by two other female kitchen workers and the male employee who helped them come forward says:

"Topgolf created, condoned, and covered up a misogynistic 'frat boy' culture at its Las Vegas location, where severe and pervasive sexual harassment, abuse, and assault of low-level employees was accepted, normalized, laughed about, and seemingly even rewarded."

"I think 'frat boy' downplays it," Lee said. "It's an understatement. This is closer to a criminal enterprise."

Former prep cook Elba Servin says in the lawsuit she was assaulted before Ciara Williams in June 2016.

"She'd been lured to an empty house by Mr. Hinojosa and she'd been raped there," Lee explained, as referenced in the lawsuit.

Too ashamed and afraid to report it, the lawsuit says she returned to work where Hinojosa "began sexually harassing and generally harassing her, humiliating her in ways that are too numerous to mention here. And she finally broke down and went to the same regional manager for Topgolf parent company and wrote out a report."

Silvino Hinojosa mugshot
Former Topgolf chef Silvino Hinojosa is facing both civil and criminal charges for sexual assault on site at Topgolf. The company itself is also being sued for allegedly covering up Hinojosa's actions.

Brian Gomez, the same employee who helped Ciara Williams, went to Human Resources with Elba Servin. The lawsuit alleges the complaint was never taken seriously.

"While she was writing out this report in Spanish and he was translating it, the regional manager was doodling," said Lee. "She pretended to be taking it down. And that report disappeared and was destroyed."

13 INVESTIGATES | Read more investigative stories in the Las Vegas area

The third woman suing Topgolf and Hinojosa says in the lawsuit that when she threatened to report him for sexual harassment, he told her, "She should be careful because 'accidents happen, especially if she were to cross the street.'"

And though she was petrified, she filed that complaint... with one difference.

Instead of a Topgolf corporate manager, she went to an office administrator who gave her an MGM Grand incident report form. Topgolf leases its Las Vegas land from MGM.

"There were two reports that finally got Hinojosa fired and they were both on MGM's rather than Topgolf's incident report forms," said Lee.

The lawsuit says the culture at Topgolf was:

"Intertwined with other illegal and characteristically abusive conduct, including the frequent use of cocaine in the workplace by Hinojosa with other managers, Hinojosa’s use of date rape drugs to manipulate and disarm his victims, and Topgolf’s knowing hiring and retention of undocumented persons."

Lee says Hinojosa "would tell victims 'There's no point in reporting me. If you ever do anything about it, nothing's going to happen to me because I'll call ICE [Immigration and Customs Enforcement.] I'll report them. They'll be in trouble and they know it, so nothing can ever happen to me.' So that was another thing that made the victims feel completely helpless and may have been why Topgolf seems to have protected and covered up."

When Hinojosa was fired in May 2018, the lawsuit says, "... He apparently did contact immigration authorities and report Topgolf’s illegal hiring practices, which ultimately led to the termination of approximately 50 employees" in Topgolf's Las Vegas kitchen.

"Elba talked about it being -- and this is in the complaint -- talked about it being like a mafia organization. Like it was that corrupt," Lee said.

"It was so corrupt that you couldn't rely on anything," he said. "It was lawless."

Brian Gomez, the prep cook who tried to protect his co-workers by helping them come forward, was eventually fired for a time-sheet mistake, which the lawsuit calls "Retaliation for his support and advocacy of the women."

"The deeper we go, the further up [the corporate ladder] we go. And we have just begun really to scratch the surface in terms of where this comes from at the Topgolf USA level," Lee said.

He cites another case filed in Oklahoma City in 2017 which Topgolf settled out of court.

It also involved allegations of the sexual assault of a kitchen worker by her supervisor. The lawsuit says both the victim and a male coworker who tried to help her got fired after reporting it.

"That may be a reflection of this underlying pattern and practice of cover-up," said Lee.

And he believes this is just the tip of the iceberg.

"We think there may be other people out there that have been victimized by this same culture."

In early October 2019, Hinojosa was arrested and charged with felony sexual assault of a child under 14.

Two weeks later, he was criminally charged with sexual assault for what he allegedly did to Ciara Williams.

He remains in jail pending jury trial in both cases.

When we asked him for an interview, he said he needed to speak to his attorney first. We're awaiting a further response.

Neither Topgolf nor the company's attorneys have responded to our requests for comment.

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