BRAIDWOOD, Ill. — The Braidwood, Ill., motel made famous in the movie “Planes, Trains & Automobiles” has become home to prostitution and drug use, according to local police.
They carried out a year long undercover sting operation that resulted in the arrest of the motel’s current owner Vinodchandra “Vinny” Patel of Des Plaines for promoting prostitution. Motel manager Kanubhai “Kenny” Patel is charged with aggravated battery for allegedly fondling a legitimate guest of the motel.
The Braidwood Inn served as the backdrop to a movie scene in which characters played by John Candy and Steve Martin find themselves comedically stranded in a single motel room overnight.
The property is now called the Sun Motel and is under different ownership than it was when the movie was filmed there in the mid-1980s. Braidwood police received assistance from several other jurisdictions – and even recruited police retirees – for this bust.
An undercover officer posed as a pimp from Chicago looking for a location for his illicit business. An undercover female officer posed as a prostitute, and retired members of law enforcement played the role of “Johns.” Police say court-authorized recordings captured motel owner Vinny Patel acknowledging that he knew prostitution was being conducted at the property.
Braidwood Police Chief Nick Ficarello tells WGN Investigates the motel has been a frequent source of trouble in his community. Police and paramedics have responded to 14 calls about drug overdoses there in the last four years, resulting in two deaths.
“We’ve addressed the opioid epidemic in an aggressive manner and this situation at the motel was contributing to that problem,” Ficarello said.
Police say their undercover operation also revealed claims by a female guest that motel manager Kenny Patel repeatedly fondled her. She had moved into the motel with her children after a fire destroyed their home. The motel’s manager and owner told police they are not related, despite sharing the same last name.
Braidwood Mayor James Vehrs is quoted in a news release as saying he is “proud of the continued efforts to clean up this chronic nuisance and the war on drugs in the city of Braidwood.”