A Prince George's County judge has fined F.W. Woolworth Co. $125,000 for deceptively advertising reductions from bogus "regular prices" and destroying company records that were requested in a state investigation.
Maryland Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr. said yesterday that the fines were imposed by Circuit Judge James M. Rea, who found that in 1982 and 1983 the retailer ran false and deceptive ads for its Woolworth stores and now-closed Woolco outlets, promoting reductions that were not true savings for customers.
Woolworth filed a motion requesting that Rea reconsider the ruling and remove the fines from the final judgment. Woolworth officials declined comment on the ruling.
The allegedly fraudulent ads appeared in a number of Maryland, Virginia and Washington newspapers, including The Washington Post and the Sun papers of Baltimore, according to Curran's office.
The judge fined the company $100,000 for the advertising violations and $25,000 for destroying documents after the state asked for them.
The attorney general's office filed its original lawsuit against Woolworth in December 1982, after a joint investigation with the consumer affairs offices of Montgomery and Prince George's counties of Woolco's "going out of business" sales in those counties.
Rea said the court had been told that when the Woolco stores shut down, their files were shipped to Milwaukee, kept in a warehouse for a while and later destroyed. But Rea said that at the time the state sought the records, the documents were still in storage in Milwaukee.