AG’s Office Identifies Second Set Of Gas Gougers
By MEGAN MONTALVO
Two weeks after 13 regional gas station operators were identified for price gouging in the wake of Superstorm Sandy, 12 additional retailers are now facing penalties for the same allegations.
On Nov. 29, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced that his office has notified the 12 operators of his intent to commence enforcement proceedings for violations of the New York State Price Gouging statute, bringing the total number of targeted retailers to 25. Of the new batch of stations identified, four are in Queens.
“Our office will continue to take enforcement actions against price gougers because ripping off New Yorkers is against the law,” Schneiderman said. “We are actively investigating the hundreds of complaints we’ve received from consumers of businesses preying on victims of Hurricane Sandy. There must be no tolerance for unscrupulous individuals who take advantage of New Yorkers trying to rebuild their lives.”
Among the current batch of enforcement targets in Queens is a Getty, located at 141-50 Union Turnpike in Flushing, a Gulf, located at 60-90 Elliot Ave. in Maspeth, a Shell, located at 92-10 Astoria Blvd. in East Elmhurst and a Sunoco, located at 18-84 Flushing Ave. in Ridgewood.
Consumer complaints list prices for the Getty at $4.99 per gallon, $4.79 in cash and $4.89 in credit per gallon for the Gulf, a range of $4.89 to $7.90 a gallon at the Shell and $7.25 per gallon at the Sunoco.
Though retailers at the Getty, Gulf and Sunoco could not be reached for comment as of press time, a manager at the Shell denied all accusations of price gouging.
“It is impossible,” Hameed Khan said. “We didn’t get gas for five days after the storm. When we finally did get the gas, we only charged $4.35 to $4.49 per gallon. We would never price gouge.”
As of Dec. 3, regular gas retailed at $3.83 with premium costing $4.19, according to GasBuddy.com, a leading online method for website visitors to post and view recent retail gasoline prices.
Out of the seven counties listed for the accused gougers, Queens has the highest number of retailers at seven. Nassau trails slightly behind with five, surpassing Suffolk and Westchester with four station each.
The Bronx, listed at three offenders, rounds out the preliminary list with Staten Island and Brooklyn at one offender each.
Though many local residents have experienced the gouging first hand, others have reported a number of retailers who conducted unscrupulous business practices during the chaos of the post-Sandy gas shortage.
At a Shell at 71-08 Northern Blvd. in Jackson Heights, consumers, like Francisco Bello of Jackson Heights, waited several hours in line for gas only to be turned away at the pump.
“After waiting two and half hours in line, I found out that the station owner was only serving yellow cabs belonging to a fleet he owned,” Bello said. “I tried to appeal to the owner to sell us the gas due to the emergency of the situation, but was ultimately forced to leave when a pair of police officers told us to leave or they would cite us for trespassing. The situation may not have been illegal, but it just felt unethical. I basically decided that I’m never going to do business with them again.”
While Bello did not have an opportunity to purchase gas at the station, Schneiderman announced that the Shell was also on the initial list of accused gougers, charging upwards of $5.50 a gallon.
A Mobil, located at 40-40 Crescent St. in Long Island City and a Delta, located at 13-09 14th Ave. in College Point joined the Jackson Heights Shell in the first series of the Attorney General’s investigation.
Within the coming weeks, the Attorney General’s office plans to release additional offenders.
If you believe you are a victim of price gouging or a post-hurricane scam, contact the Attorney General’s Consumer Helpline at 800-771-7755 or find a complaint form online at: www.ag.ny.gov
Reach Reporter Megan Montalvo at (718) 357-7400 Ext. 128 or mmontalvo@ queenstribune.com.