A Freehold company is being sued by the state for knowingly selling jet fuel at its six gas stations during a three-day period, authorities said Tuesday.
Pasmel Property, Inc., of Freehold, and six of its gas stations are being sued by the Division of Consumer Affiars and its Office of Weights and Measures, according to a release from the state Attorney General’s Office.
Pasmel owns a Lukoil gas station on Route 71 in Manasquan as well as stations in Keyport, Trenton, North Plainfield, Lawrenceville and Scotch Plains, according to the release.
The suit stems from an incident late last year when the stations received nearly 65,000 gallons of 100 octane jet fuel from a distributor between Dec. 6 and Dec. 7. The fuel contains lead, which can damage cars’ catalytic converters and oxygen sensors, the release says.
“We will pursue restitution for any consumer, if it is demonstrated that this aviation fuel damaged their vehicles,” Jeffrey Chiesa, state attorney general, said in the release. “Just as importantly, we are holding these gas stations and the distributors responsible for their alleged, unlawful deception and potential harm to the public.”
The gas stations advertised the jet fuel as unleaded gas and sold it to unknowing customers, the release says.
The alleged sale constitutes multiple violations of state’s Consumer Fraud Act, Motor Fuels Act, Weights and Measures Act, Motor Fuels Regulations, and Advertising Regulations, as well as the Federal Clean Air Act, the release says.
The suit also names Zephyr Oil, a Brooklyn, NY, fuel distributor and Lee Transport, of Pittsgrove, a fuel transporter, saying the two companies violated the Consumer Fraud Act by selling or distributing jet fuel they knew, or should have known would be sold as unleaded gas, the release says.
Zephyr Oil on Dec. 4 purchased approximately 73,000 gallons of jet fuel from a California-based company, unnamed in the lawsuit. At the time of the sale, the aviation fuel was stored at a fuel terminal in Bayonne. Zephyr Oil sold the fuel that same day to Pasmel, at a significant discount compared to the price of premium motor fuel at the time. Zephyr contracted with Lee Transport to deliver the avgas from the Bayonne terminal to the Pasmel stations, the release says.
The state alleges that Zephyr, Lee Transport, and Pasmel all knew or should have known that the fuel being delivered to the Pasmel stations was aviation fuel. The bills clearly noted that the fuel was “AVGAS – Aviation.” In addition, the loading forms signed by Lee Transport identified the fuel as “AVGAS,” as did the weight tickets from the Bayonne fuel terminal, the release says.
It was not until the afternoon of Dec. 7 that an employee of the fuel terminal learned from a Lee Transport driver that Lee Transport was delivering the aviation fuel to gas stations, according to the state’s lawsuit, the release says.
After learning this information, the fuel terminal stopped the remaining deliveries. As a result, the remaining 8,000 gallons of avgas purchased by Pasmel was not delivered to any of the gas stations, the release says.
Violations of the Consumer Fraud Act may result in civil penalties of up to $10,000 for a first violation and up to $20,000 for subsequent violations. Violations of the Motor Fuels Act may result in civil penalties of up to $1,500 for a first violation and up to $3,000 for subsequent violations, the release says.
A first violation of the Motor Fuels Act may result in a suspension of up to 30 days of the retail dealer’s license to sell motor fuels, and a subsequent offense can lead to a revocation of the license. Violations of the Weights and Measures Act may result in civil penalties of up to $1,000 for the first violation, and up to $5,000 for subsequent violations, the release says.
Consumers who believe they have been cheated or scammed by a business, or suspect any other form of consumer abuse, can file a complaint with the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs by visiting its website or by calling 1-800-242-5846 (toll free within New Jersey) or 973-504-6200.