For Immediate Release - February 02, 2010

Attorney General Martha Coakley Files Lawsuits Against Three Companies for Allegedly Evading Tolls

BOSTON - Attorney General Martha Coakley's Office has filed three lawsuits against companies for evading over $7,000 in Fast Lane tolls by using personal or carpool transponders to avoid paying higher commercial tolls. The lawsuits, filed late yesterday in Suffolk Superior Court, stem from an investigation by the Attorney General's Office and the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) of individuals and companies who violated the Massachusetts False Claims Act by abusing the Fast Lane toll program.

"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," said Attorney General Coakley. "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."

"The vast majority of drivers on our roadways act responsibly. Those drivers who act irresponsibly and abuse the Fast Lane program should be held accountable for their actions," said MassDOT Secretary and CEO Jeffrey Mullan. "I want to thank the Attorney General and her dedicated staff for their work on these cases."

The lawsuits allege that three businesses avoided paying higher commercial tolls by improperly using personal or carpool transponders. Everett-based Broadway Limousine used the carpool transponder registered to owner Tracy Mackin in two commercial vehicles 327 times in the Ted Williams and Sumner tunnels to avoid paying $1,716.75 in tolls. The second lawsuit alleges that Medhi Haoulani's individual transponder was used 2,079 times by his company's livery vehicles, Newton Limousine, Inc. located in Waltham, Massachusetts, avoiding $3,211.50 in tolls. The third lawsuit alleges that Wakefield-based Northeastern Limousine used the personal transponder of its owner, Yahia Karabadji, 1,628 times avoiding $2,075.75 in tolls. The three complaints, brought under the False Claims Act, seek to triple the damages and assess fines for each time the defendants used a personal transponder for commercial purposes.

The Attorney General's Office has statutory powers to bring cases under the Massachusetts False Claims Act. This statute allows the Attorney General to bring claims to rectify harm to the Commonwealth, state authorities and municipalities whenever a potential defendant knowingly presents, or causes to be presented, a false or fraudulent claim for payment or approval. This law allows the Attorney General's Office to recover monies spent as a result of false or misleading statements, and to collect penalties, fees and costs.

Last winter, the Attorney General's Office also entered into three settlements resulting in a recovery of approximately $ 8,000. This amount represents three times the amount of the tolls owed. These cases involved drivers who failed to keep enough funds in their accounts to cover their use of the Fast Lane tolls. In one instance, an individual used a transponder 318 times over the course of seven months despite receiving violation notices from MassDOT.

Assistant Attorney General Emily Armstrong and Legal Analyst Jeffrey Walker of Attorney General Coakley's Consumer Protection Division are handling these matters with assistance from Investigator William Mackay of the Investigations Division.