SunMart is a Houston-based company that runs convenience stores across the Southwest.
If you regularly got your gas from there, a Houston jury said this week, you got ripped off. You paid for a gallon but got less, through some pump trickery. A jury hit SunMart's parent, Petroleum Wholesale, with a $30 million verdict in a suit brought by the Texas Attorney General's office.
"The jury's verdict reflects a significant and well-deserved rebuke to SunMart's fraudulent pump calibration scheme," AG Greg Abbott said. "After carefully considering the evidence during an eight-week trial, the jury concluded the defendant illegally set its gasoline pumps to deliver less than a full gallon of fuel."
In a planned operation in 2008, state authorities blitzed SunMart locations with inspections, looking at 1,700 pumps at 86 stores. Tests showed 985 were calibrated to give less than a full gallon, the AG's office said.
"While Operation Spotlight was still ongoing, " the office said, Petroleum Wholesale "attempted to cover up its improper calibration scheme by dispatching company personnel and third-party contractors to recalibrate pumps before TDA inspectors could reach all 86 SunMart locations."
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It's a movie thriller!! Desperate employees racing the clock trying to fix pumps before the heat arrives!!
SunMart, by the way, denies any wrongdoing, It issued a statement saying it plans to appeal the verdict.
Their full statement:
This company has operated in the Houston area for 30 years. We have always maintained the highest ethical standards and adamantly deny the company has done anything improper. We are very disappointed with the jury's verdict and believe there is insufficient evidence to support it. We believe the jury disregarded tolerances, long recognized by law, and held us to a standard of perfection that neither we nor anyone in the retail fuel industry can attain. We will take every avenue to appeal and reverse the decision and expect to be successful.