The gas station operator and fuel distributor and transporter accused of selling aviation fuel to unsuspecting drivers a in late 2012 reach settlements with New Jersey prosecutors, adding up to $137,000

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Freehold-based Pasmel Property, owner of the six gas stations that vended the fuel, will pay $85,000, according to information from the office of acting New Jersey Attorney General John J. Hoffman.

Included in the amount is $7,536.50 restitution for drivers who demonstrated fuel-related damage to their cars, or who paid to have it siphoned. Lee Transport of Pittsgrove is dunned $32,000. Zephyr Oil of Brooklyn, N.Y., is responsible for $20,000. The settlements also cover civil penalties and reimbursement for state investigative and legal costs.

All three were charged with violations of the Consumer Fraud Act. Pasmel was also accused of violating the Motor Fuels Act and regulations,Weights and Measures Act, and advertising regulations. All three denied the charges, officials said.

Aviation fuel ("avgas") contains tetraethyl lead, once a common component in car fuels that was removed with the advent of clean-air auto technologies such as catalytic converters and oxygen sensors - both of which run the risk of damage with exposure to it.

Prosecutors said that drivers thought they were buying unleaded gasoline, not fuel restricted to certain aircraft.

"Some consumers suffered real monetary losses after filling their cars with potentially harmful airplane fuel.," acting Division of Consumer Affairs (DCA) Director Steve C. Lee said. "This settlement provides them with restitution.  It also reminds New Jersey's fuel merchants of their clear responsibility to follow the law - and give motorists exactly what is advertised when selling motor fuel."

The state complaint, filed in Monmouth County Superior Court in Freehold, contended that Zephyr bought about 73,000 gallons of the 100-octane fuel on December 4, 2012, and sold it to Pasmel at a "significant discount" compared to the price of premium gasoline. It was delivered by Lee Transport.

The fuel was dispensed as regular, plus and/or premium gas at Lukoils in Manasquan, Scotch Plains, Lawrenceville and Plainfield, Keyport Delta, and Express Fuel in Trenton, investigators said.

A Lee Transport driver's remark to a fuel terminal worker, three days later, spurred the investigation.

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