Qataris in Cambridge get off with $3,000 fine for refusing to pay Filipino maid and taking away her passport

A Qatari couple who brought their Filipino maid with them when they took up residence in Cambridge had to pay a $3,000 fine for not realizing that in the United States, you're not supposed to withhold a worker's wages or passport when she says she wants to quit, let alone threaten to ship her back to your home country and deal with her there, according to the Massachusetts Attorney General's office.

Local, state and federal law-enforcement agencies teamed up to investigate the actions of Mohammed and Adeela Alyafei, the Attorney General's office reports:

An investigation began in March after there were allegations that a woman had been held against her will and not paid wages by her employers in Cambridge. The investigation revealed that the Alyafeis had travelled from Qatar to Cambridge with their family and brought a domestic worker with them to help care for their children.

Once in Cambridge, the Alyafeis failed to pay the worker for several weeks of work. After the worker requested her wages and asked to return home to the Philippines, the Alyafeis demanded her passport, immediately bought her plane ticket back to Qatar, and threatened to punish her upon her return.

All of that was a violation of the Massachusetts wage and hour and domestic-worker laws, officials say.

Short circuit sparks two-alarm fire in Dorchester

Firefighters make sure fire stays out. Photo by BFD.

The Boston Fire Department reports a two-alarm fire that started in a first-floor bedroom at at 11 Capen Pl., off Capen Street, did an estimated $250,000 in damage.

The fire, reported at 11:30 a.m., displaced six people. There were no injuries, the department reports.

Wed, 05/04/2016 - 11:30

Mayor supports pool table at South Boston hotel

When the Aloft hotel on D Street opened on Feb. 4, the lobby had one of the pool tables that all Aloft hotels have. And then management had to order it packed up and put it in storage when they learned that Boston requires a license for pool tables in places of public accommodation.

At a hearing before the Boston Licensing Board today, an aide to Mayor Walsh supported granting the hotel a "billiards/sippio" license, after General Manager Michael Jorgensen assured the board that while the pool table - open for free to all hotel guests - starts with P and that rhymes with capital T, the hotel's game with the fifteen numbered balls would not become a devil's tool that might cause young men to start memorizing jokes from Capt. Billy's Whiz Bang.

As proof, Jorgensen said the table would be under constant supervision by whichever manager was on duty at the moment.

Walsh has been trying to get the state legislature to pass a bill that would get Boston out of the business of regulating pool tables.

Court: Company whose phone service sent innocent Quincy man to jail not liable for harm caused to woman in case

A federal appeals court yesterday dismissed a lawsuit against a New Jersey company whose phone anonymizer service was used by a vengeful Quincy woman to make phony sexually explicit, harassing phone calls to the neighbor of a man who had fired her from her job at a Quincy diner.

The victim of the calls reported the boss to police because his number showed up on her caller ID; police then knocked down his door and locked him up.

The US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit in Boston acknowledged that Siobhan Walsh, who received the calls, "was the victim of something far worse than a prank, and she was victimized by use of a service that facilitated such awful conduct." But the court also agreed with a judge in federal district court that TelTech is not to blame under the Massachusetts consumer-protection law under which Walsh sued, because she failed to prove the company was at all involved in the harrassment.

In 2009, after getting fired from her waitressing job, Johnienne DiLorenzo signed up for an account on TelTech's SpoofCard service, which she then used to leave the harassing messages on Walsh's voicemail, the appeals court reported. And she used SpoofCard to make it appear on Walsh's voicemail that the calls had come from the man she was really angry with.

Walsh went to police, who arrested that man for making the calls and put him in a Dedham lockup to await arraignment. When Walsh got more of the calls, police charged the man with witness intimidation.

Eventually, police discovered he hadn't made the calls; that, in fact DiLorenzo and her husband Michael - who knew the man from high school - were responsible. They dropped the charges against the diner owner and arrested the couple on charges of criminal harassment, threats to commit a crime and witness intimidation.

The couple eventually agreed to pay Walsh $15,000 and the criminal charges against them were dropped.

In her suit against TelTech, Walsh said the calls made her so fearful she had to quit her job in Boston - out of worry she might be attacked on her way to and from work. In her complaint, her lawyer wrote:

Plaintiff has suffered direct injuries as a result of "spoofing", including but not limited to shock, severe and debilitating emotional distress, annoyance, harassment, invasion of her privacy, loss of income, loss of employment opportunities and other like and serious harm.

Walsh based her case on provisions of the Massachusetts consumer-protection law, known as 93A.

But the court cited several reasons to dismisse the case, including: TelTech's license warned subscribers not to use the service for anything illegal or that Walsh did not provide evidence that the DiLorenzos saw pages on the TelTech Web site that appeared to promote just such illegal uses. Also, her complaint failed to prove that, under the Law, TelTech had a duty to explicitly explain to the DiLorenzos and other Massachusetts subscribers just what could happen to them if they, in fact, put SpoofCard to illegal use, or alternatively, a duty to shut down SpoofCard because the company would have to be completely blind not to recognize how its service would be used.

The court agreed with the lower court that "no reasonable jury could find that TelTech caused the appellant's injuries."

Mayor: City Point has enough coffee shops

Mayor Walsh, city councilors Michael Flaherty and Michelle Wu and state Sen. Linda Dorcena-Forry this morning backed residents opposed to a Starbucks at L Street and East Broadway, saying there are already enough coffee options in the area, that a Starbucks would exacerbate morning traffic woes at the intersection and would help to eat away at the family-oriented, mom-and-pop nature of the commercial district east of Perkins Square.

"There's not really a public need for another coffee shop," John Allison, the mayor's neighborhood liaison for South Boston, said at a Boston Licensing Board hearing this morning.

City Councilor Bill Linehan (South Boston) was the only elected official to voice support for the proposed Starbucks. An aide told the board that Linehan has "always supported retail use for that part of Broadway;" he pointed to the neighboring Tasty Burger and Dunkin' Donuts, which Linehan also supported. State Rep. Nick Collins (D-South Boston), neither attended nor sent an aide to testify.

The board decides tomorrow whether to grant Starbucks a food-serving license for a 39-seat Starbucks open from 5 a.m to 11 p.m. - or grant residents the 30-day deferral they asked for. Developer Michael Norton had originally proposed a sit-down restaurant for the space, but shelved that plan when the licensing board wouldn't give him a liquor license.

At the hearing, residents said L and Broadway is already a morning battlefield for kids walking to school, people getting on a T bus to downtown and commuters coming all the way from the South Shore on L Street.

But beyond that, residents said City Point doesn't need another coffee shop, especially not one controlled by a distant corporation in a neighborhood where most shop owners live locally.

Residents noted at least five outlets within 700 feet of the location that already serve coffee. The owners of three of those businesses - Molly Moo's, Boston Bagel Co. and Cranberry Cafe - testified against the proposal. Molly Moo's owner Mohammed Nahas predicted Starbucks would put him out of business and that it would suck money out of South Boston and send it out of town to "a big entity," never to return.

Other residents said the locally owned shops - and the locally based owner of the Dunkin' Donuts - always give back to the community, something they said the big chains such as Rite-Aid, CVS and Starbucks never do.

"There's only so many cups of coffee you can drink," one opponent added.

Starbucks supporter Kenny Jervis, though, begged to differ. "I drink eight cups of coffee a day," and in pursuit of a java jolt, he said, he's noticed that Starbucks has actually promoted the development of a "coffee community" in other neighborhoods, such as the Fenway, where they've opened up.

"We can't discriminate against which businesses move into the city," Jervis said, comparing Starbucks to GE, which the city actively pursued.

A Starbucks official denied the coffeehouse would kill off nearby shops. "It's a different kind of coffee shop," one that would be open late at night as an alternative to nearby bars, unlike the other local coffee servers, all of which close by early evening, she said.

She said that Starbucks has considerable support in the community. She said workers collected 100 signatures in suppoort in just a half hour standing at the nearest T bus stop.

When asked by board Chairwoman Christine Pulgini if she could agree to a 30-day deferral to try to reach some sort of armistice with neighbors, the offical said she didn't know how to answer, in part because "we were definitely caught offguard" by the opposition. Unusually for a large chain going before the licensing board, Starbucks was not represented by a local licensing and zoning attorney, or any attorney at all.