"I strongly suspect this was an intentional act," said Texas Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples, whose office is charged with checking fuel pumps. Attorney General Greg Abbott's office is investigating, Staples said, noting that his office could fine the company as much as $100,000.
A call to The Woodlands-based company seeking comment was not immediately returned Tuesday.
Staples said his office began investigating Friday, after noticing a spike in violations. It's not unusual for pumps to be slightly inaccurate, but Staples said the pattern of discrepancies found at Sunmart stations were beyond the norm.
"I believe the facts would have been even more incriminating had the company not dispatched a band of technicians scurrying to get ahead of my team of inspectors in order to recalibrate faulty fuel pumps," Staples said.
Across the state, 990 of Sunmart's 1,704 fuel pumps were found to be cheating consumers, according to the investigation.
Commissioner Staples initiated "Operation Spotlight" after becoming aware of some egregious violation patterns that pointed to the possibility of Sunmart intentionally shortchanging Texas drivers. The three-day operation ended on Sunday, July 20, with the following results:
- 990 of Sunmart's 1,704 fuel pumps cheated consumers (58 percent)
- 47 Sunmart stations cheated customers on more than half of their pumps
- 15 of those 47 stations had every single pump cheating drivers.
- TDA shut down all of the non-compliant pumps.
"At a time when families are struggling to purchase fuel, I am sure that 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.
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