Archive for Thursday, September 13, 2001

County attorney to subpoena gas station owners

County investigates gasoline price gouging

September 13, 2001

The Leavenworth County District Attorney's office could possibly serve three to four subpoenas to gasoline station owners that allegedly gouged gas prices following the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, D.C.

"We are going to issue subpoenas for those who raised their prices on Tuesday," Leavenworth County District Attorney Frank Kohl said. "They will be brought in for inquiry as to why their prices were raised and what precipitated the raise."

A national fear of rising gasoline prices was raised on Tuesday, Sept. 11, when rumors were abound that the price of gasoline would sky rocket due to the destruction a terrorist attack left on the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon.

The Leavenworth County Sheriff's Department and the Leavenworth Police Department recently concluded an investigation into the price gouging and have turned all the information over to the county attorney.

Leavenworth County Sheriff Herb Nye said six gas stations in Leavenworth raised their prices. The prices reached as high as $2.59 per gallon, he said.

In addition to the rising prices, Nye said the Sheriff's Department also had to deal with traffic problems in the county on Tuesday.

Kohl said the case of price gouging were reprehensible acts by gas station owners playing to the fears of the public.

"I think it is basically opportunistic at it's mildest," Kohl said. "It is a case of economic terrorism."

Kohl, who visited six gasoline stations in Leavenworth on Tuesday afternoon, said the gas gouging could possibly be in violation of the Kansas Consumer Act.

Violators could be prosecuted in both civil and criminal court and be subject to fines or jail time, he said.

Kohl did not release the names of the station owners that would be served a subpoena.

Currently, both the Kansas and Missouri state attorney general are looking into cases of price gouging.

Kohl said the County Attorney's office would not stand in the way should the attorney general choose to prosecute the Leavenworth violators.

Although some of the gasoline prices in Leavenworth were raised Tuesday, there were no reported raises in the southern portion of the county.

Prices in Basehor, Tonganoxie and Linwood all remained steady throughout the day.

One local store even went beyond keeping prices the same. Bichelmeyer's Grocery, located on 155th Street, actually lowered the cost of gasoline during the long lines Tuesday afternoon. (see related story)

"We did it as a good gesture," Gary Bichelmeyer, store manager, said. "We lowered it as an emphasis that everything was ok and that there was no reason to panic."

However, gasoline stations in Bonner Springs were not as giving as Bichelmeyer's.

Although prices in Bonner Springs did not reach as high as the $5 per gallon reported at some stations in Kansas City, Kan., the two Woods Oil stations were charging as much as $2.49.

In a letter to the Sentinel/Chieftain, the Wood Oil Company explained the reason for the hike. The letter stated that they had heard from gasoline suppliers that "All unbranded product sales are being suspended until further notice."

A local Amoco station also raised their prices slightly, reaching just under $2 a gallon.

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