Mass. AG files lawsuits, consent judgement

Nick Rees Feb. 2, 2010, 3:00pm

Martha Coakley (D)

BOSTON (Legal Newsline) - Massachusetts Attorney General Martha
Coakley has announced the filing of three lawsuits against companies
for evading tolls and a consent judgment against a Great Barrington
newspaper that published property advertisements that violated
anti-discrimination laws.

The lawsuits name the Everett-based Broadway Limousine, the
Waltham-based Newton Limousine Inc., and the Wakefield-based
Northeastern Limousine. Combined, the companies are alleged to have
evaded more than $7,000 in Fast Lane tolls through their use of
personal or carpool transponder to avoid paying higher commercial

"Thousands of drivers travel on the Massachusetts Turnpike and through
our airport connector tunnels every day. It is not fair to those
drivers who lawfully pay their tolls each time they travel these
routes when a small number of drivers, such as these transportation
companies, evade the proper tolls to save money," Coakley said. "Our
office is committed to holding accountable those who do not
appropriately pay their tolls, thereby depriving the state of the
funds it is due."

Broadway Limousine is alleged to have used owner Tracy Mackin's
carpool transponder 327 times in two commercial vehicles to avoid
paying $1,716.75 in tolls. Newton Limousine Inc., is alleged to have
used owner Medhi Haoulani's individual transponder 2,079 times in the
company's livery vehicles, avoiding $3,211.50 in tolls. Northeastern
Limousine is alleged to have used owner Yahia Karabadji's personal
transponder 1,628 times to avoid $2,075.75 in tolls.

The claims were brought under the False Claims Act and seek triple the
damages. Additionally, the lawsuit seeks to assess fines for each time
the defendants used a personal transponder for commercial purposes.

Coakley also obtained a consent judgment against Shopper's Guide
newspaper of Great Barrington to resolve allegations that it had
published more than 100 rental property advertisements in violation of
state and federal anti-discrimination laws.

The commonwealth's complaint alleges that Shopper's Guide published
approximately 146 housing advertisements that unlawfully discriminated
based on family status, sex, marital status, receipt of public housing
assistance and disability, in its print and online versions from
January 2007 to mid-September 2009.

It is illegal to make statements regarding the rental or sale of
property stating a preference, limitation or discrimination based upon
race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, national origin,
genetic information, ancestry, children, marital status, public
assistance recipient or handicap under state and federal law. This law
extends to not only property owners but also to newspapers who publish
any unlawful advertisements.

Under terms of the consent judgment, Shopper's Guide is prohibited
from future publication of unlawful real estate advertisements.
Additionally, Shopper's Guide is required to pay a total of $15,000 to
the commonwealth and the Housing Discrimination Project of Holyoke and
provide annual fair housing training to its staff. The Housing
Discrimination project will also be provided $30,000 of free
advertising space by the Shoppers Guide, which is also required to
adopt appropriate screening mechanisms ensuring that discriminatory
advertisements are not published. Shoppers Guide also agreed to
sponsor a community fair housing training that will be open to the
general public.

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