Gas station accused of price gouging during blackout - San Diego, California News Station - KFMB Channel 8 - cbs8.com

Gas station accused of price gouging during blackout

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EL CAJON (CBS 8) - Gas pumps all around the county were shut off during the blackout, leaving frustrated drivers unable to fill up. One gas station in the East County was able to get back online Thursday night, thanks to a generator.

Spring Valley resident Amerina Vidal says she will never go to the Superstar Gas Station in El Cajon ever again. She's accusing the owner of taking advantage of Thursday's blackout by making extra bucks off desperate consumers who were running on empty.

"$3.69, $3.79, $3.99… by the time I got to the pump it said $4.49, by the time I got up to the pump, because my truck is really big, it said $4.99," Vidal said.

"If somebody's upset with me I'm sorry, that's what I could do," gas station owner Hani Toma said.

Toma says he was just trying to recover costs tied to a generator rental to keep pumps online and to pay for overtime costs.

Twelve people overtime need money to keep them working, plus there were 30-40 people in the store, there were a lot of people in the store stealing things, so I have to cover all of that," Toma said.

Deputy District Attorney Gina Darvas says that section of state law prohibits excessive and unreasonable pricing of necessary consumer goods -- including gasoline -- after an emergency declaration.

"The price increase to 10 percent of what was being charged prior to the proclamation, and it does allow for prices to increase if for example the business is incurring additional costs or expenses because of the emergency," Darvas said.

Court documents show Hani Toma has been named in a string of small claim cases and tax liens.

In 2004 he was sued in federal court by the ARCO Gasoline Company for trademark infringement. The case was later settled. And according to court records, he is currently on misdemeanor criminal probation after a jury found him guilty in 2009 of resisting an officer near the gas station.

"I'm open for business to make money, I'm not going to lose money. I have to cover my costs at least. The cost was too much for me," Toma said.

Amerina Vidal says she wants to file her concerns with El Cajon city and county consumer protection officials. She called what happened to

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