Bryan Cohen Dec. 20, 2012, 7:14pm

NEWARK, N.J. (Legal Newsline) - New Jersey Attorney General Jeffrey Chiesa and the Division of Consumer Affairs announced price gouging lawsuits Wednesday against five additional hotel operators and one more gas station.

The six filings represents the third group of lawsuits brought by the state against businesses that allegedly raised prices excessively during the declared state of emergency for Hurricane Sandy.

The defendants named in the most recent lawsuits are the Parsippany-based Hospitality Management of Parsippany LLC, doing business as Days Inn; the Egg Harbor Township-based Amy Hotels LLC, doing business as Econo Lodge; the Princeton-based Barclay Hospitality Services Inc., doing business as Homewood Suites by Hilton; the Hazlet-based Riya Hazlet Hotel, doing business as Holiday Inn Hazlet; the Pleasantville-based Infant King Management LLC, doing business as Howard Johnson Inn; and the Hackensack-based Ali Syed Gas Inc., doing business as Gulf.

"We allege that these hotel owners broke our price gouging law, at a time when vulnerable consumers desperately needed the most basic of necessities - shelter," Chiesa said. "There is no excuse, legally or morally, for businesses trying to gouge consumers in the aftermath of a widespread disaster, and we are holding them accountable."

The state seeks restitution for consumers, civil penalties of up to $10,000 for an initial offense and up to $20,000 for each subsequent offense and reimbursement of legal costs.

This third group of lawsuits brings the total to 24 New Jersey businesses sued by Chiesa's office for alleged price gouging, including 13 hotels and motels and 11 gas stations.

New Jersey's price gouging statute prohibits excessive price increases during a declared state of emergency or for 30 days following the state of emergency. Excessive price increases are defined as more than 10 percent higher than the price the merchandise was sold for prior to the state of emergency during the normal course of business.

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