Bryan Cohen Nov. 29, 2012, 7:30pm

NEWARK, N.J. (Legal Newsline) - New Jersey Attorney General Jeffrey Chiesa and Governor Chris Christie announced a second round of price gouging lawsuits on Wednesday against 10 businesses resulting from the Hurricane Sandy state of emergency.

Three of the businesses included in the latest round of lawsuits are hotels owned by North Bergen-based Ratan Hospitality Group and include the Clifton-based Howard Johnson Express-Clifton, the North Bergen-based Holiday Inn Express and the East Orange-based Ramada Inn. Other businesses included in the lawsuits are the Mahwah-based Comfort Suites, the Phillipsburg-based America's Best Value Inn, the Cologne-based A-1 Motel, the Princeton-based Extended Stay America, the Bloomfield-based Jenny's Shell Station LLC, the North Bergen-based Empire Oil LLC, doing business as Delta, and the Piscataway-based Shiv Shivam Inc., doing business as Lukoil.

Another business owned by Ratan Hospitality Group, the Parsippany-based Howard Johnson Express-Parsippany, was sued in the state's first round of price gouging lawsuits.

"This one company and its four hotels allegedly committed a staggering number of violations of the price gouging law, and each separate violation merits a penalty of up to five figures," Chiesa said. "Safe, comfortable lodging is not a luxury when people have been displaced from their homes during a state of emergency. It is a basic necessity. We have no tolerance for businesses seeking to unlawfully profit from the desperation of others during this unprecedented storm."

Between the seven hotels sued as part of the latest round of lawsuits, there are more than 1,000 allegations of price gouging. The hotels allegedly charged more than $400 per night in some instances and increased the rates for rooms by more than 200 percent.

Violators of New Jersey's price gouging statute are subject to civil penalties of up to $10,000 for a first offense and as much as $20,000 for each additional offense. Each individual sale of merchandise counts as a separate and distinct event, which could lead to significant penalties for the businesses sued as a result of the alleged actions.

The state's price gouging statute prohibits excessive price increases of more than 10 percent during or within 30 days of a state of emergency.

Chiesa's office filed suit against 18 businesses in New Jersey accused of price gouging since the October 27 state of emergency.

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