In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, 47 businesses in New York state were charged with price gouging, incurring penalties totaling more than $300,000. The state attorney general Eric T. Schneiderman recently reached a settlement with four additional businesses in Westchester owned by Sammy Eljamal, who agreed to pay $20,000 in penalties for charging “unconscionably excessive” gas prices after the storm.
Eljamal, who owns four gas stations including 202 Gas Mart at 3709 Crompond Road in Cortlandt Manor, Yonkers Central Avenue Snack Mart at 1001 Central Park Ave., Ardsley Snack Mart at 730-731 Saw Mill River Road and Tarrytown Snack Mart at 440 S. Broadway, raised the prices of regular unleaded gas at those stations by up to 85 cents, 70 cents, 60 cents and 34 cents, respectively.
“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,” said Schneiderman in a press release. “Today, we are continuing to send the message that ripping off New Yorkers during a natural disaster is against the law and that those who engage in illegal price gouging will be held accountable.”
Since October 2012, the attorney general’s office has obtained $309,885 in penalties from 47 downstate gas stations for price gouging and a $40,000 settlement with a Brooklyn hotel after guests were charged excessive rates for last-minute room reservations after the storm.
The state experienced some of the largest jumps in gas prices in state history with prices rising at the pump several times a day.
The state’s price gouging law prohibits merchants from charging customers excessive prices during natural disasters. The price is considered excessive if there’s a “gross disparity” between the prices charged before and after the emergency and the increase is not attributable to a higher cost to the seller. The law applies to state vendors, retailers and suppliers.