BOSTON - Turner Broadcasting and Interference, Inc., on Monday paid $2 million to avoid a criminal or civil investigation into advertisements they used that created a bomb scare in the Boston area last week.

The agreement was reached by the companies and state Attorney General Martha Coakley. She said that $1 million will be used for certain agencies' homeland security and community initiative funds, $578,766 will be used as compensation and $421,234 will be classified as additional restitution.

More than three dozen blinking electronic signs with a cartoon character giving the middle finger were found Wednesday in the Boston area, and authorities feared they were bombs.

In fact, they were part of a publicity campaign for "Aqua Teen Hunger Force," a show on Cartoon Network.

"Last week's events caused a major disruption in the greater Boston area on many levels -- crippling public transportation, causing serious traffic problems, negatively affecting local businesses, and perhaps most significantly, costing Boston and surrounding communities thousands of dollars," Coakley said.

"We acknowledge our responsibility for the unconventional marketing tactic that we authorized, and apologize to the citizens of the greater Boston area for any hardship they encountered this week," a statement from Turner said.

"We understand now that in today's post-Sept. 11 environment, it was reasonable and appropriate for citizens and law enforcement to take any perceived threat posed by our light boards very seriously and to respond as they did."

Criminal charges are pending against the two men who placed the signs, Peter Berdovsky and Sean Stevens. Coakley said prosecutors are attempting to avoid a trial.

The settlement covered all employees of Turner and Interface except those two because they retained separate counsel.

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