Panhandle Gasoline Targeted in Price Gouging Probe

Florida’s Attorney General Charlie Crist is sending a pair of gasoline distributors accused of possible price gouging during a state of emergency during Hurricane Dennis last weekend.

Crist says he’s following up on what he called a “staggering number of complaints” made to the state’s consumer hotline.

Callers, many of them from northwest Florida, complained gasoline prices shot up dramatically as evacuations were ordered for area cities and counties.

Crist told NewsChannel Seven, “30 to 40 cents a gallon. In some cases there was as much as a dollar a gallon increase during a state of emergency. It is outrageous. What were they thinking? I mean, that is just the wrong thing to do at the wrong time.”

“We are not going to let them get away with it and fortunately the legislature agrees with us. That’s why they have it not just as a civil offense, it’s also a criminal offense.”

The subpoenas were delivered to Tate Oil Company in Crestview, the Shell Oil distributor for this area and to Motiva Enterprises. Tate Oil Company is owned by Phillips Oil, Inc., also of Crestview. The company is owned by Ryan E. Phillips, a resident of northwest Florida.

Companies convicted of price gouging during an emergency can be fined as much as $25,000 a day and can face criminal penalties.