Four online liquor retailers are facing prosecution following a sting by Massachusetts authorities. At the direction of investigators, underage college students ordered beer, wine and alcohol from online retailers and had the booze shipped to their homes.

As a result, four online retailers without state licenses - including one based in California - were sued by the state this week for failing to verify the ages of their customers. Three shippers - FedEx, UPS and DHL - will also face an administrative hearing for allegedly delivering the alcohol to minors, Attorney General Thomas Reilly said yesterday.

The college students were able to order 50 bottles of wine, four six-packs of beer and more than a dozen types of hard alcohol, from tequila and vodka to brandy.

The four companies sued for failing to have a license and selling to underage buyers were Sherry-Lehmann Wines and Spirits of New York; Wine Globe of San Mateo; Queen Anne Wines and Spirits Emporium, of Teaneck, N.J.; and Clubs of America of Lakemoor, Ill.

A hearing on an order barring the companies from doing business in Massachusetts was scheduled for 14 June in Suffolk Superior Court. FedEx, UPS, DHL and three other alcohol retailers have been ordered to appear at a hearing of the ABCC on 29 June. The ABCC licenses manufacturers, sellers and transporters of alcohol in the state.