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East Islip gas station fined $12G for price gouging after Sandy

This U.S. Petroleum Station is located on East

This U.S. Petroleum Station is located on East Main Street in East Islip. (Oct. 31, 2013) (Credit: Danielle Finkelstein)

An East Islip service station has been fined $12,000 for gouging motorists purchasing gasoline after superstorm Sandy, which struck Long Island a year ago Tuesday.

State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman announced Thursday that USA Petroleum at 11 E. Main St. had been found guilty of breaking the state's price gouging law. Suffolk County Judge Jerry Garguilo ordered the retailer to pay a $10,000 penalty and $2,000 in legal costs.

Investigators from Schneiderman's office found the difference between the cost USA paid for regular unleaded gasoline and the price it charged at the pump was $1.45 per gallon in the week after Sandy, a 35 percent increase over the pre-storm gap of $1.07.

Schneiderman said, "USA Petroleum took advantage of the devastation caused by Sandy to overcharge. . . . Judge Garguilo's decision holds the owners of this station accountable for their illegal price gouging and will serve as a warning to those who would violate the law."

Jules A. Epstein, an attorney for USA, said it was considering whether to appeal the ruling.

Kevin Beyer, president of the Long Island Gasoline Retailers Association, said the attorney general had unfairly singled out the industry. Beyer said stations incurred additional costs for gasoline, employees and power generators in the days after the storm.

USA's 38-cent difference per gallon between wholesale and retail prices of gas before and after Sandy "isn't gouging. I don't think this is right," Beyer said. "I think the station should appeal."

To date, Schneiderman has secured $301,118 in fines from 44 stations on Long Island and in New York City and the Hudson Valley, for charging exorbitant prices after Sandy -- many of them through out-of-court settlements.

Last week, he announced a settlement totaling more than $40,000 with the Holiday Inn Express hotel in Brooklyn for price gouging after Sandy.

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