HOUSTON (CN) – A state investigation found SunMart convenience stores rigged 985 pumps to dispense less gas than what customers paid for, and a Harris County jury ordered the company to pay $30 million in restitution and penalties.
Attorney General Greg Abbott in 2008 charged Petroleum Wholesale LP with scamming its SunMart customers by providing “less than a full gallon of fuel for each gallon charged.”
“On July 18-20, 2008 dozens of inspectors with the Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA) conducted Operation Spotlight – a multicounty effort to inspect and test 1,701 gasoline pumps at 86 SunMart stores,” Abbot said in a statement.
“According to court documents filed by the state, 58 percent of SunMart’s pumps were calibrated to dispense less than a full gallon of fuel. While Operation Spotlight was still ongoing, PWI attempted to cover up its improper calibration scheme by dispatching company personnel and third-party contractors to recalibrate pumps before TDA could reach all 86 SunMart locations.”
Texas agriculture inspector, who is charged with regulating gas pumps, started the investigation after learning that Petroleum Wholesale’s pumps routinely failed inspection.
The jury found Petroleum Wholesale liable for $18.7 million in restitution, $8.4 million in civil penalties and $2.7 million in fees to the state.
“The state will now seek a permanent injunction prohibiting PWI from calibrating its own gasoline pumps,” Abbott said. “The state will also ask the court to bar PWI from using unlicensed calibrators to serve its pumps in the future.”