Gas Going For $20 a Gallon on Black Market After Sandy

Opportunists have posted ads on Craigslist, selling gas for $20 a gallon.

ByABC News
November 5, 2012, 10:43 AM

Nov. 5, 2012— -- Opportunists looking to profit off superstorm Sandy are advertising gasoline for as high as $20 a gallon on the black market after the storm crippled the ability for some tankers to pump gasoline and deliver it to stations in the Northeast, some of which are still powerless.

A former insurance adjuster who now works as a contractor in Brooklyn told he stocked up on 500 gallons of gas before Sandy hit. He has since sold his entire inventory.

"I was able to sell everything for $11 a gallon. I probably could have gouged people for twenty bucks and they would have paid it," he said.

Handfuls of advertisements have popped up on Craigslist offering gas at prices as high as $20 per gallon and empty gas cans, which are scarce, at prices ranging from $40 to as high as $500.

New York Attorney General Eric Schniederman announced today his office is investigating post-Sandy price gouging after receiving a slew of complaints. However it remained unclear if any of the cases would be prosecuted or whether private individuals looking to cash in could also face prosecution.

Jeff Lamm, spokesperson for the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs, said investigators are aware of private gougers and they plan to go after them since they likely "don't have a fuel license," he told found the Brooklyn contractor through an advertisement on Craigslist in which he offered to sell empty five gallon gas cans for $40 a piece.

"I don't need to hear that I'm a crook. People should have been prepared," he said. "I had some people irate and mad but they [have] got to understand I saw what happened in Katrina and Rita. Even though they have these federal agencies, you've got to be ready on your own. You can't depend on nobody."

Help Hurricane Sandy Victims

In the six days since Sandy wreaked havoc on the northeast, long lines-- some of them several miles long-- have snaked through the streets as desperate motorists wait for hours to pump the limited available supply of gasoline into their vehicles.

Price gouging laws are being enforced to prevent gas stations and other stores from profiting off the emergency. In New Jersey, state law prohibits retailers for raising prices more than 10 percent in the 30 days following an emergency.

It was unclear whether the Craigslist sellers were exempt from the law, however there was plenty of distaste for their scheme to cash in on a disaster.

"I would have to say that it's probably capitalism at its worst," said Sal Risalvato, executive director of the New Jersey Gasoline-Convenience-Automotive Association.

He said although there are always "a few bad apples" out there, he was proud that members of his association, who have taken a hit at their stores, have remained honest and not raised prices.

"We can expect more deliveries but it's going a lot slower than I hoped it would," Risalvato said, of the effort to restore power to tankers and gas stations.

Despite the black market, Risalvato said this is a delivery problem and not a shortage.

"There's no need to panic [people] anymore. We can all go swimming in how much gasoline there is," he said, pointing to the downward pressure in prices.