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Manasquan Lukoil Among Gas Stations Accused of Substituting Aviation Fuel For Unleaded

The aviation fuel contains toxic lead, and was sold at the station in Manasquan, authorities said.

The Manasquan Lukoil is one of six gas stations in New Jersey accused of selling aviation fuel in place of unleaded gas, Attorney General Jeffrey S. Chiesa and the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs (DCA) announced on Tuesday, May 28.

The six gas stations named in a lawsuit filed by Chiesa and the DCA allegedly substituted 65,000 gallons of 100 octane aviation gasoline, or avgas, from a fuel distributor, between Dec. 6 and 7, 2012. According to the DCA, the aviation fuel was advertised as unleaded regular, plus, or premium motor fuel, and sold to unsuspecting customers between Dec. 6 and 8, 2012.

That deceit is a violation of New Jersey’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.

Avgas is used to power piston-engined aircraft, and contains a toxic lead known as tetraethyl lead. This lead can damage the catalytic converters and oxygen sensors of a car.

“We allege that these gas stations clearly knew, or should have known, they were selling aviation fuel that contains toxic lead, while advertising it as unleaded gasoline for motorists,” Chiesa said. “We will pursue restitution for any consumer, if it is demonstrated that this aviation fuel damaged their vehicles.  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 following gas stations, located in Mercer, Monmouth, Somerset and Union counties, were named in the lawsuit: Pasmel Property, Inc., of Freehold, and six Pasmel-owned gas stations: Daninka, in North Plainfield; Express Fuel, in Trenton; Keyport Delta; Manasquan Lukoil; Lawrenceville Lukoil; and Scotch Plains Lukoil.

Zephyr Oil, a fuel distributor based out of Brooklyn, and Lee Transport, a fuel transporter based out of Pittsgrove, were also named in the lawsuit. They are accused of violating the Consumer Fraud Act by selling and/or distributing leaded aviation fuel that they knew, or should have known, would be advertised and sold to consumers as unleaded motor fuel.

Zephyr Oil is accused of purchasing about 73,000 gallons of avgas on Dec. 4, 2012, from a California-based company not named in the lawsuit. Zephyr Oil then sold that fuel to Pasmel at a significantly discounted price. Lee Transport was contracted to deliver the fuel from a terminal in Bayonne, where it was being stored, to the gas stations.

The state alleges that all three entities knew or should have known the fuel being transported was avgas, as the bills were clearly labelled “AVGAS – Aviation," and the loading forms signed by Lee Transport labelled the fuel "AVGAS." The weight tickets from the Bayonne terminal also labelled the fuel "AVGAS."

An employee at the terminal learned from a Lee Transport driver on the afternoon of Dec. 7 that the aviation fuel was being transported to gas stations, according to the DCA. At that point, the terminal stopped deliveries of the fuel, leaving 8,000 gallons of the fuel undelivered to gas stations.

On Tuesday afternoon, Pasmel Attorney Glen Vida denies the company had knowledge that the fuel being delivered was aviation fuel. On Dec. 20, 2012, Pasmel filed a lawsuit against Zephyr Oil.

"The invoice said 'premium gasoline,'" Vida said.

Vida claims that as soon as Pasmel knew what it was distributing, it closed down the stations, emptied the tanks, disposed of the aviation fuel and cleansed everything. Stations were shut down for several weeks, and in some cases, a month.

"Pasmel lost an awful lot of money," Vida said. "It approaches six figures."

Zephyr has responded to the suit, claiming Pasmel knew it was receiving aviation fuel. Vida will be looking to consolidate that suit with the one filed by the state on Tuesday.

“Any consumers who believe they purchased fuel from these six gas stations between December 6 and December 8 is urged to call the Division of Consumer Affairs at 800-242-5846, especially if you believe your vehicle may have been damaged as a result,” DCA Director Eric T. Kanefsky said.

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. 

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.

Enforcement Supervisor John McGuire, of the New Jersey Office of Weights and Measures within the Division of Consumer Affairs, conducted the investigation.  Deputy Attorneys General Glenn T. Graham and Jeffrey Koziar, of the Consumer Fraud Prosecution Section within the Division of Law, are representing the State in the action.

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.

Angelo Forte May 31, 2013 at 01:46 AM
It dosn't matter how much oil is under south dakota do you think for one moment that the oil companys will sell fuel for an reasonable price?
John McGrew May 31, 2013 at 01:54 AM
"Reasonable" is whatever you'll be willing to pay. Stop paying, and the price will go down.
tdwelander May 31, 2013 at 04:57 PM
Even at the lead quantities you list, lead is less than the other toxic junk in auto gas. And lead being electrostatic and heavy, latches on to other toxins, falls to the surface and stays put unless disturbed. Or lead is the least undesirable of the many toxins floating around from volcanic emissions; 99% of the toxic emissions on the planet. More lead is placed in the atmosphere from volcanic emissions than all of the Earth's piston powered aircraft, another 99% volcanic emissions source. Or how ignorant people have been about human pollutants being irrelevant, especially lead; to date. Also, gas mileage improves with increasing octane number. 100 octane avgas is superior to any lower octane gas for performance. Meaning it is probably highly desirable to use avgas in autos as long as the avgas is cleaner than the auto gas; which is always the case based on what I know; due to the finicky nature (highly susceptible to thermal shocks and more importantly engine cylinder deposits, low suspended solids of avgas) in air cooled aircraft engines requiring the best available performance.
pskurla June 03, 2013 at 11:35 AM
Howie is all wet. There is plenty of storage space at airports in the NJ metro area to have shifted any AvGas that may have been at risk to flooding. That is IF there was a risk of flooding. The refineries in Linden are were not at risk in Sandy. Remember the storage tanks are sealed so even if a small flood on the outside the gas would be kept safe.
Drew June 07, 2013 at 02:51 AM
tdwelander is wrong...mileage is not affected by octane number. Octane represents how much energy is required to ignite the fuel/air mixture under compression. Higher octane is required to prevent detonation under load. Detonation is the pinging cars exhibit when under load with too low an octane numbered fuel. TEL is a cheap and easy way to increase octane number. That is until the EPA stepped in and phased out lead. For aircraft, TEL is the only practical way of getting the octane number to 100. 100 octane is needed for high compression aircraft engines that would be susceptible to detonation with octane ratings in the mid 90's.

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