Vegas execs sue online travel firms, allege unpaid hotel tax

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FILE - In this April 28, 2020, file photo, the sun sets behind casinos and hotels along the Las Vegas Strip in Las Vegas. Two prominent Las Vegas communications executives are suing more than 20 online travel companies for back taxes they say should have been paid to Nevada based on hotel room rates.(AP Photo/John Locher, File)

LAS VEGAS – Two prominent Las Vegas communications executives have sued more than 20 online travel companies for back taxes that they say should have been paid to Nevada based on hotel room rates.

On behalf of the state, Mark Fierro and Sig Rogich accuse hotel room booking services including Orbitz, Hotwire, Expedia, Travelocity, Priceline and Hotels.com of intentionally underpaying hotel taxes going back at least several years.

“There’s no way the online travel companies did this mistakenly,” Rogich said in a statement.

Their lawsuit was filed in state court in April but sealed while state Attorney General Aaron Ford reviewed the allegations. He declined Sept. 29 to intervene in the case, clearing the way for the filing of the unusual “qui tam” lawsuit by private parties seeking to recover money on behalf of a government entity.

Fierro said the money “should have been going to Nevada’s schools, law enforcement organizations, infrastructure and a broad array of other needs of Nevada citizens.”

The amount in dispute in the false claims and consumer fraud action includes more than $100 million in unpaid taxes, said Michael Cristalli, an attorney representing Fierro and Rogich. Added damages and penalties under state Deceptive Trade Practices law could bring the amount to nearly $200 million, Cristalli said.

Representatives of most of the 22 named defendants did not immediately respond to email messages about the lawsuit.

Fierro, head of Fierro Communications, and Rogich, chief of The Rogich Communications Group, would get up to 30% of money won in the case, according to the court filing.