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Texas attorney general accuses hotel, motel of Ike price gouging

  • Story Highlights
  • Hotel, motel accused of illegally raising prices as evacuees fled Hurricane Ike
  • Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott files lawsuit against the two businesses
  • Attorney general: Hotel charged $99.99 for room that had cost $49.99 days earlier
  • About 1.2 million Gulf Coast residents moved inland to avoid worst of Ike
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(CNN) -- The Texas attorney general sued a hotel and a motel Thursday, accusing them of price gouging during September's exodus of more than 1 million Gulf Coast residents ahead of Hurricane Ike.

Attorney General Greg Abbott filed suit against the Hotel Nacogdoches in Nacogdoches and the Super 8 Brookshire Motel near Katy, accusing them of illegally raising room rates after Gov. Rick Perry had issued a declaration of disaster on September 8.

"Although Texas law clearly prohibits profiteering during declared disasters, these defendants are charged with increasing room rates for evacuees during Hurricane Ike," Abbott said in a news release. "The law imposes strict penalties on vendors that attempt to increase their profits after the governor issues a disaster declaration.

"Despite today's price-gouging charges, the vast majority of Texas businesses complied with the law and are to be commended for working with authorities to provide crucial assistance to hurricane victims."

In Texas, the state attorney general can sue, but not file criminal charges. A district attorney would need to file any such charges.

An estimated 1.2 million Gulf Coast residents heeded officials' recommendations that they move inland until the storm had passed.

Hotel Nacogdoches, located north of Houston along a major evacuation route, charged evacuees more than double its usual rate, the statement said, citing complaints from guests whose receipts showed the hotel charged $99.99 for a room that had cost $49.99 two days before Ike.

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It told a similar tale about Super 8 Brookshire Motel, west of Katy, which also housed evacuees. The motel charged up to $125 for a room that ordinarily cost $99, the statement said.

The businesses also charged state and local hotel and motel taxes, even though the governor had issued a declaration waiving them, according to the statement.

The office of the attorney general is seeking civil penalties of up to $20,000 per violation and up to $250,000 per violation for victims over the age of 65.

Managers from neither hotel immediately returned calls seeking comment.

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