Taxi Tycoon's Gas Station Among 13 Investigated for Price Gouging
NEW YORK CITY — Thirteen New York gas stations are being investigated for price gouging in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, according to the attorney general's office— including one Queens station owned by a taxi mogul who refused to serve gas to anyone but yellow cabs.
Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is bringing legal action against the stations after his office said they received hundreds of complaints of gouging at the pump.
"Our office has zero tolerance for price gouging, and we are taking action to send a message that ripping off New Yorkers is against the law," Schneiderman said in a statement. "We will do everything we can to stop unscrupulous individuals from taking advantage of New Yorkers trying to rebuild their lives."
Of the 13 stations being investigated, six are located in New York City, according to Schneiderman's office.
One of those is a Shell station at 71-08 Northern Boulevard and 71st Street in Jackson Heights owned by taxi tycoon Evgeny Freidman, who refused to serve to anyone but cabbies even as drivers lined up for blocks to get fuel amid a massive gas shortage.
Freidman, whose 232 medallions are the most owned by anyone in the city, last week opened two pumps for his own drivers and one pump for other cab companies, leaving three other pumps unused while station attendants waved away desperate motorists looking for fuel.
On Nov. 8, gas at the station was about $4.50 for drivers not in Freidman's fleet, similar to some other gas stations in the city. But days earlier the station was charging even more, according to one cabbie who works for Freidman.
"Two days ago he was charging $5.59 a gallon," said a Woodside Management driver, who asked not to be identified for fear he would be fired. "I can't tell you how many levels they're corrupt on."
Schneiderman's office confirmed they received complaints that the station was charging $5.50 a gallon.
Freidman, who said he shipped the gas in from places like Boston and New Hampshire, did not immediately return requests for comment Thursday, but last week he defended his tactics.
"It's my gas that I'm paying a ridiculous amount of money for," Freidman told DNAinfo.com New York at the time. "I think we're providing an essential service for taxi cabs."
Other stations in the city being investigated include a Mobil at 40-40 Crescent St. in Long Island City; Delta at 13-09 14th Ave. in College Point; Sonomax at 278 Greenpoint Ave. in Greenpoint; a Getty at 600 Pelham Parkway in Allerton; and a Mobil at 688 E. Gun Hill Rd. in Pelham Parkway. Seven other stations outside of the city are also being investigated.
The Jackson Heights Shell charged the highest reported prices in the city, according to a press release.
Schneiderman's office called the actions the first in a series against price gougers across the state. The investigations are based on "a review of both consumer complaints and independent pricing information," according to a press release.