A judge has ordered a Farmingdale USA Petroleum gas station to pay more than $23,000 for price gouging during the fuel shortage following superstorm Sandy, the state announced Tuesday.
Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman said the USA station at 630 Main St., Farmingdale, owned by Mena Inter Inc., charged $4.59 a gallon for regular gas after the storm, so the spread between its wholesale cost for the fuel and its retail price was $1.80 a gallon, compared to $1.04 a gallon before the storm. The alleged gouging netted the station an extra $6,733 in profits, the state said.
The average price for regular on Long Island never got above $4.168 after the storm, said the AAA.
There was no answer Tuesday at one phone listed to Mena. A message left on another line wasn't returned.
The court judgment of $23,733 against Mena Inter Inc., was signed by State Supreme Court Justice Norman Janowitz in Mineola. Schneiderman said the judgment was the largest so far for gas price gouging in the wake of the devastating storm.
Schneiderman also announced settlements with two other Long Island stations, a BP at 464 W. Jericho Tpke., Huntington, and another BP at 900 North Broadway, Massapequa, for the same alleged violation of state business law.
At the BP in Massapequa, which settled for $4,500 according to Schneiderman's office, a person answering the phone said the owner was on vacation and no one else could comment.
At the BP in Huntington, which was accused of charging $4.30 a gallon after the storm, representing a 48 percent increase in the wholesale to retail spread, owner Mirza Aliamad said he agreed to the $10,000 settlement only to avoid much higher legal costs to defend himself in court.
He called Schneiderman's actions unfair and said his costs rose after the storm as he hired extra people to manage the lines of cars and people with gas cans. He also said his station served free coffee and sandwiches to neighborhood residents without power in their homes. "I went above and beyond to do what I had to do to serve my community," he said. "I believe our pricing was in line with most of the stations on Jericho Turnpike."
In a statement, Schneiderman said, "As thousands of New Yorkers sat in line for hours waiting to buy gasoline during the state of emergency created by Hurricane Sandy, some crooked station owners increased their retail prices by excessive and illegal amounts."Another 30 settlements against stations for alleged gouging after Sandy were announced by Schneiderman earlier this year, in response to what he said to hundreds of complaints from consumers.
The state'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.