LANSING, Mich. -- Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuettehas filedcriminal charges against five Madison Heights gas station owner/operators for their alleged roles in a gasoline price-fixing operation. The stations were all located within two miles of each other in Madison Heights. An investigation by Schuette's office revealed the details of the price-fixing scheme, which involved the five stations setting their gasoline prices at an artificial level, within a penny or two of each other.
The scheme, which violated Michigan antitrust law, was an attempt to increase profits from [image-nocss] gasoline sales by eliminating competition in the Madison Heights area.
All five station owners now face charges for violations of Michigan's Antitrust Reform Act (MARA).
"Price-fixing undermines the free market and sticks consumers with the bill," said Schuette. "It's illegal in any industry, but is particularly egregious as Michigan drivers struggle with rising gas prices."
Schuette's office began the investigation after a tip from another Madison Heights gas station owner who was pressured to participate in the price-fixing operation. The station owner worked with investigators to gather evidence from the five Madison Heights station owner/operators allegedly involved in the price-fixing scheme. Information obtained during the investigation showed the stations all set their prices within a penny or two of each other on at least five days: February 8, 2011, February 11, 2011, February 23, 2011, February 27, 2011, and March 3, 2011.
Schuette said that the Michigan Antitrust Reform Act (MARA) prohibits price-fixing agreements because they undermine competitive market forces, causing artificially higher prices for consumers. All five station owner/operators have been charged with violations of MARA, and because Michigan law permits the charging of companies, each of the gas stations involved has been charged separately.
He said that evidence of an actual agreement among retailers is needed to prove a price-fixing violation, rather than just the fact that prices match in a particular area.
The following stations and owner/operators have each been charged with five counts of violating Michigan's Antitrust Act. Each count is punishable by up to two years in prison and/or a $10,000 fine for individuals, and up to a $1 million fine for the companies. Spinx-Monster Oil No. 2, resident agent Shady Mahm Abdelhamid. Sunoco-Bombay Party Shoppe Inc., resident agent Wissam "Sam" Mansour Shammami. Marathon-Dequindre Oil Co., manager Farouk Ali Harajli; and, CITGO-Durga Lakeshmi Inc., manger Rengachari "Vijay" Vijayaraghavan. J & A Quick Stop.
The following individual owner/operator has been charged with one count of violating Michigan's Antitrust Act: Bernard "Yaldo" Jalal Yaldou, Manager of J & A Quick Stop
Arrangements are being made for the defendants to turn themselves in to authorities, and they were expected to be arraigned yesterday. in 43rd District Court in Madison Heights.
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