Crime Watch

Price gouging gas stations face fines


More than two dozen gas stations, accused of excessively raising prices in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, will be paying fines to the state after settlements were announced on May 2 by New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.

The fines range from $1,500 to nearly $20,000. Several of these stations facing fines are on Long Island’s South Shore.

After the hurricane, gasoline was in short supply as many stations were without electricity for days. Even when the power came back on, deliveries couldn’t keep up with the demand as stations had both long lines of cars and people with gas cans.

After the storm, Schneiderman soon began an investigation into several service stations on charges of price gouging.

New York’s Price Gouging Law prohibits merchants from taking unfair advantage of consumers by selling goods or services for an “unconscionably excessive price” during natural disasters. The law states that a price may be considered excessive if there is a “gross disparity” between the prices charged immediately before and after the emergency and the disparity is not attributable to higher costs imposed upon the seller.

Several local stations were found to have price gouged. The BP station owned by King of Sunrise, Inc., at 700 W. Sunrise Highway in Valley Stream, was charging $4.59 for a gallon of regular gas after the storm. According to Schneiderman, the difference between the wholesale price and the pump price was 95 cents before the storm, and $1.59 after the storm, a 67 percent change. The owners will be paying a $12,000 fine.

The highest fine goes to East End Marketing, which operates an Xtra Plus station at 2670 North Jerusalem Ave. in North Bellmore. It will be paying a penalty of $18,250 to the state. Gas went from a $1.08 difference between wholesale and the pump price before the storm, to a $1.53 difference after. The station was charging $4.31 a gallon immediately after Sandy, according to Schneiderman.

The BP station at 724 Elmont Road in Elmont, operated by Greenvale Oil, Inc., was hit with a $15,000 fine. The difference between the wholesale and pump price when from 82 cents before the storm to $1.23 after.

Other stations to settle include United Technical Group, Inc., which owns a Sunoco Station at 900 Atlantic Ave. in Baldwin ($1,500 fine); S&Z Best, Inc., owners of a Citgo station at 1338 Hempstead Turnpike in Elmont ($2,000); Broadway Auto Care at 351 Scranton Ave. in Lynbrook ($2,500); Al's One Stop Auto which operates a Shell station at 516 Merrick Road in Rockville Centre ($4,000); Road Ready at 2786 North Jerusalem Road in North Bellmore ($7,500); and BP at 1577 Merrick Road in Merrick ($8,000).

“Six months ago, as New Yorkers were sitting in lines waiting for hours to buy critical supplies of gasoline, some shady business owners were trying to make a fast buck at their expense,” Schneiderman said. “We are sending a powerful message that ripping off New Yorkers during a time of crisis is against the law and we will do everything in our power to hold them accountable.”