Battlefield Inn operators arrestedState stings two for price-gouging

Published 12:03 am Saturday, September 1, 2012

The operators of Battlefield Inn became the third and fourth arrests in Mississippi for price-gouging during the state of emergency declared for Hurricane Isaac.

Devenora V. Patel, 56, and Hemel Ramesh Surati, 26, were arrested Thursday night at the I-20 Frontage Road hotel, Attorney General Jim Hood’s office said in a news release Friday.

Patel was identified as Surati’s father-in-law.

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The men are accused of charging more than their usual profit margin for hotel rooms. A state of emergency in effect since Monday put merchants under the state’s price-gouging laws, which state that all Mississippi counties along or south of Interstate 20 may not increase their average profit margin on goods and services after an emergency is declared.

Violators face between one and five years in jail per count. The state of emergency is in effect until the order is rescinded.

Rooms at Battlefield are advertised at between $40 and $50 a night, depending on occupancy and bed type, according to the hotel’s website. No information was available on rates were being charged during the days when rooms were being booked by up to 6,000 in Vicksburg and Warren County without electricity and evacuees from South and Mississippi.

Patel and Surati were released from Warren County Jail Thursday night after each posted a $1,500 bond.

Complaints from hotel customers triggered the Attorney General’s Office involvement, Hood said.

“The arrests were the result of tips from concerned citizens and a subsequent undercover investigation,” Hood said in a statement.

Unity Hospitality Inc., of which Patel is a principal, purchased the hotel in November 2011.

The case was investigated by Investigator Lee McDivitt and is being prosecuted by Special Assistant Attorney General Patrick Beasley.

The arrests followed two others on Wednesday for price-gouging during the run-up to Isaac’s landfall in south Louisiana late Tuesday.

On Wednesday, Rajinder Singh, 50, a Madison gas station owner, and Kuldip Singh, 51, of Natchez, a Roxie truck stop owner, were arrested and charged with gouging.

Hood’s office reported 200 price-gouging reports related to Hurricane Isaac, with 160 on Tuesday alone.

The counties covered under the price-gouging statute during the state of emergency are: Warren, Hinds, Rankin, Scott, Newton, Lauderdale, Claiborne, Copiah, Simpson, Smith, Jasper, Clarke, Jefferson, Adams, Franklin, Lincoln, Lawrence, Jefferson Davis, Covington, Jones, Wayne, Wilkinson, Amite, Pike, Walthall, Marion, Lamar, Forrest, Perry, Greene, Pearl River, Stone, George, Hancock, Harrison and Jackson.

Any merchants with questions about the law and any consumers with complaints can contact the AG’s Consumer hotline at 1-800-281-4418. Consumers may go to for more information.