Texas Department of Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples this week provided results from his agency’s "Operation Spotlight," a major investigation into Petroleum Wholesale L.P.’s Texas fuel stations operating under the name Sunmart.
The investigation has confirmed that numerous Sunmart gas stations cheated Texas consumers by giving them less fuel than they purchased, and the findings strongly indicate it could have been a deliberate act by the company, the commissioner said.
"At a time when families are struggling to purchase fuel, I am sure all Texans would agree with me that despicable violations such as these are repulsive and must be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law," Staples said. "Given the strong indication this company has intentionally cheated consumers, I have passed along the results of ‘Operation Spotlight’ to Attorney General Abbott and his office has opened an investigation into the matter."
Staples initiated "Operation Spotlight" after becoming aware of egregious violation patterns that pointed to the possibility Sunmart was intentionally shortchanging Texas drivers.
The three-day operation ended on July 20, and came up with these findings:
The Texas Department of Agriculture shut down all of the non-compliant pumps. While the investigation is ongoing, TDA estimated the company could be fined more than $100,000 as a result of its actions.
Beyond its operations in Texas, Petroleum Wholesale operates Sunmart stations in Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado, Utah and Arizona. Staples has alerted regulatory officials in those states to inform them of his investigation.
"While this specific operation may have ended, we are far from finished," Staples said. "We are going to shine the light on all violators who are looking to shortchange Texans. I will not stand for companies taking advantage of good citizens and I will work hard to protect all our consumers."
TDA inspectors are planning to conduct follow-up inspections on all gas pumps that were tagged out-of-order once they’re recalibrated. The agency will also conduct re-inspections in the coming weeks on a random sample of the Sunmart stations. Discover of continued violations could incur much higher penalties for Petroleum Wholesale, TDA said.