Williams motel owner pleads guilty to price gouging

A Williams woman pleaded guilty to price gouging during the Mendocino Complex fires in the Colusa County Superior Court last week, and was ordered pay substantial fines and return the illegal profits to the victims of the price gouging.

Investigators from the District Attorney’s office began investigating complaints of price gouging at various Williams hotels on Aug. 7, including the Capri Motel. On August 24, investigators received a complaint from a resident of Upper Lake, who stayed at the Capri Motel with his elderly mother and two dogs after being evacuated. The investigators obtained a search warrant for records from both the Capri Motel and the City of Williams in Aug. 30, and charges were ultimately filed against the owners of the motel, Manisha and Vinaykumar Patel, on Oct. 10. 

Manisha Patel pleaded guilty to a single charge of price gouging during a declared state of emergency on Nov. 14. As part of her sentence, Patel was required to pay substantial fines and to return the illegal profits to the victims of the price gouging. 

Colusa County District Attorney Matthew Beauchamp said that there were multiple victims. Charges against Vinaykumar Patel were dismissed because he doesn’t have an ownership interest in the motel, Beauchamp added.

In a statement, Beauchamp emphasized that it is illegal to charge a price for essential goods and services that is more than 10 percent higher than the price a merchant or hotel owner was charging immediately before an emergency is declared.

“We have again had a government emergency declared because of the ‘Camp Fire’ that is impacting the City of Paradise and surrounding areas,” Beauchamp said in the statement. “Some of the refugees fleeing that fire have traveled to, or through Colusa.”

Suspected price gouging can be reported to the Colusa County District Attorney’s Office by calling Chief Investigator Dave Salm at (530) 458-0545.■

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Brian Pearson is the Managing Editor & Reporter for the Williams Pioneer Review. Brian joined the Williams Pioneer Review in June 2016 and is committed to bringing hyperlocal news to its readers. A few of his projects include reporting on local government and the newly feature sports page. To contact Brian about this article, or for future articles, please email him at brian@colusacountynews.net