Ill. AG Suing Station Owner for Fraud

Allegedly sold regular at midgrade, premium prices; Mo. AG sues over USTs

Lisa Madigan

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. -- Illinois attorney general Lisa Madigan has filed suit against a Rockford gas station and its owner for allegedly charging consumers premium-grade and midgrade gasoline prices for what was in fact only regular-grade gasoline. Madigan filed the lawsuit in Winnebago County Circuit Court alleging TWI Petro Group Inc. and its president Tony Wahbeh pumped regular gasoline into tanks priced for sale as premium and midgrade fuels.

"Gas prices are already sky high. I'm not going to tolerate gas station owners illegally profiting by ripping off customers," Madigan said. "In this case, the owner was selling low-octane gas at high-octane prices."

Madigan's office received a tip that at least since November 2010 through August 2011, Wahbeh was selling regular-grade Phillips 66 brand gasoline at the higher prices at his Gas n Go station, in Rockford. The Illinois Department of Agriculture, acting on a similar tip, previously tested a sample of the station's gasoline labeled "premium" and found it was only 87.8 octane, instead of the advertised 93 octane.

Madigan is asking the court to require Wahbeh to pay damages for overcharging customers and requested the court to impose civil penalties on Wahbeh of $50,000 for each violation of the Consumer Fraud Act, $50,000 for each violation committed with the intent to defraud and an additional $10,000 for each violation committed against a person 65 years or older.

Separately, Missouri attorney general Chris Koster has filed suit against Carthel and Sandra English of Walnut Shade for violations of the state's underground storage tank (UST) law.

Koster said the defendants have failed to remove three steel USTs located at their now-defunct gas station, the Walnut Shade In & Out.

He said Missouri law requires the permanent closure of a steel UST system if that system has not been maintained for more than a year. The USTs located at the English's old gas station have been inoperable and not maintained since at least August 2007.

Koster said he filed the lawsuit after the Englishes failed to respond to correspondence from his office requesting that they close the tanks. He is asking the court to issue a permanent injunction prohibiting the defendants from any further violations of the Missouri UST law, to pay a civil penalty of up to $10,000 per day for each violation of the law, and to pay court costs.

"This legal action is necessary because the defendant failed to voluntarily comply with the law even though given ample opportunity to do so," said Koster.