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NJ AG Files Suits Against 10 More Businesses For Alleged Storm Price Gouging

People line up to fill gas canisters at a gas station in New Jersey on November 2, 2012. (Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images)

People line up to fill gas canisters at a gas station in New Jersey on November 2, 2012. (Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images)

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Superstorm Sandy

NEWARK (CBSNewYork) – New Jersey has filed lawsuits against 10 more businesses for alleged price gouging in the wake of Superstorm Sandy. That brings the total number of suits filed in the wake of Sandy to 18, according to the state.

Attorney General Jeffrey Chiesa said Wednesday the second round of price gouging lawsuits are against seven hotels and three gas stations.

WCBS 880′s Jim Smith reports


Collectively, the hotels are accused of committing more than 1,000 instances of price gouging by allegedly charging more than $400 a night in some cases, Chiesa said.

“Hotels, again, that in some instances raising their rates 150 percent, 190 percent, gas stations raising their rates 30, 40 percent,” Chiesa said.

Three of the hotels, a Ramada Inn in East Orange, a Holiday Inn Express in North Bergen and a Howard Johnson Express in Clifton, are owned by Ratan Hospitality Group based in North Bergen, Chiesa said.

“We have no tolerance for businesses seeking to unlawfully profit from the desperation of others during this unprecedented storm,” Chiesa said in a statement.

One of the gas stations named in the suit allegedly raised the price of regular gas by 80 cents to $4.50 per gallon, a 22 percent increase of pre-storm rates, officials said.

“People trying to profit off of other people’s desperation and the catastrophe that was going on in this state,” Chiesa told WCBS 880′s Jim Smith. “If you’re going to engage in this behavior in New Jersey as a business, you’re going to be punished.”

Earlier this month, Chiesa announced lawsuits against seven gas stations and a hotel in northern New Jersey. The gas stations are accused of raising prices anywhere from 17 to 59 percent while the hotel is accused of raising room rates by 32 percent.

The state’s Consumer Affairs Division has received more than 2,000 complaints about alleged storm-related price gouging.

“Our laws are very clear – you can’t profit off of a catastrophe, that’s not how it works,” Chiesa said.

Violators can be fined up to $10,000 for a first offense and up to $20,000 for a second offense.

The businesses named in the latest suit are:

  • Howard Johnson Express-Clifton at 680 Route 3 West, Clifton – Allegedly charged as much as $449.99 per room night during the state of emergency.
  • Holiday Inn Express at 2600 Tonnelle Avenue, North Bergen – Accused of charging as much as $399.99 per night during the state of emergency.
  • Ramada Inn at 120 Evergreen Place, East Orange – Allegedly engaged in 208 instances of price gouging. In more than 90 of those instances, the hotel raised its rates by more than 30 percent.
  • Comfort Suites at 220 Route 17, Mahwah – Allegedly charged $219 after the storm for a room that was rented at $71.20 prior to the state of emergency.
  • America’s Best Value Inn at 1311 Route 22 West, Phillipsburg — Allegedly charged $350 after the storm for a room that was $120 prior to the state of emergency.
  • A-1 Motel at 616 West White Horse Pike, Cologne — Allegedly charged as much as $108.70 during the state of emergency, compared with its highest pre-storm rate of $50 per room night.
  • Extended Stay America at 3450 Brunswick Pike, Princeton – Allegedly raised its room rates by varying excessive amounts, up to 59.8 percent.  The hotel allegedly charged as much as $154.99 for double rooms during the state of emergency, compared with its highest pre-storm rate for double rooms of $96.99.
  • Jenny’s Shell Station, LLC at 461 Bloomfield Avenue, Bloomfield – Allegedly raised the price for cash sales of regular gas from $3.70 per gallon to $4.50 per gallon, an increase of 22 percent, during the state of emergency.
  • Empire Oil, LLC, d/b/a Delta at 7319 Bergenline Avenue, North Bergen – Allegedly raised the price for cash sales of regular gas from $3.40 per gallon to $4.10 per gallon, an increase of 21 percent, during the state of emergency.
  • Shiv Shivam Inc., d/b/a Lukoil at 152 Old New Brunswick Road, Piscataway – Allegedly raised the price for cash sales of regular gas from $3.49 to $4.50 per gallon during the state of emergency.