‘Better Call Behnken’ catches Tampa motel price gouging Hurricane Matthew evacuees

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – The day after Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi busted a Tampa Days Inn for price gouging Hurricane Matthew evacuees, 8 On Your Side found the motel doing the same thing.

The motel, on Fletcher Avenue, typically charges between $50 and $60 a night, but guests complain the rate suddenly jumped to $199 a night. Some were told to leave, even after they paid, so that the motel could move in guests willing to pay more.

Bondi showed up on Thursday and passed out complaint forms to guests. For each incident of price gouging, Bondi can fine the motel $1,000. She can assess up to $25,000 in fines

RELATED: An avalanche of price gouging complaints

“This is terrible,” Bondi said. “I love busting people who do this. It is just wrong.”

Too bad Bondi’s visit didn’t convince the motel manager to stop price gouging. 8 On Your Side found several families packing up because they couldn’t afford to fork over more money.

“I think they’re taking advantage of everybody and I don’t think it’s fair or nice to do something like that. We’re just working people every day,” said Sanjuana Ornelis. She and her family evacuated from Vero Beach.

Ornelis said her rate went from $58 to $199, if she wanted to extend her stay. She’s leaving.

John Lyons runs a rehabilitation center in South Florida and said he agreed to pay the $199 a night because he was desperate for shelter for 66 people. That didn’t stop the manager from trying to kick them out when other guests were willing to pay more.

“We paid $200 for each room. So again, we’re paying over $2,500 to stay here and then 10:30 rolls around, an hour later, and the manager says, literally, ‘Get the F out; you can’t stay here,'” Lyons said

We caught up with the manager of the motel, and he had no remorse, saying he did nothing wrong and ordering 8 On Your Side off his property.

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