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West Covina Mobil gas station owner accused of fraud

June 22, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
A gas station owner who has been selling gas at some of the highest prices in the country was in court Wednesday, facing charges of trying to deceive customers with his signs.

Daniel Choi could face jail time because he's been in the same trouble before. A judge threatened him with 30 days in jail, so Choi decided to plead not guilty.

In February, a consumer website said Choi's Mobil station had the highest gas prices in the nation. It's notorious in West Covina.

"I see these prices, they're just outrageous," said one driver, who didn't want to get gas at the station.

The Los Angeles County Agricultural Commissioner/Weights & Measures department has charged Choi with nine counts of false advertising. He allegedly would take numbers off his sign, put them on the ground and tell people they fell off.

"He was given a warning initially a year ago, which generally people comply with and for some reason he didn't," said Larry Godwin of the Department of Weights & Measures.

Choi paid a fine of $3,000 last year. After his plea on Wednesday, he got in his Lincoln Navigator and drove off to his station. Choi parked at a gas island, and his car was the only one on the lot except for those getting smog tests.

Choi charges $4.89 for regular unleaded. Across the street, a Shell station sells gas nearly a dollar cheaper and has islands full of paying customers.

Godwin has been monitoring gas stations for 25 years, and says he's never seen anyone do this.

Choi still could be served with jail time. He's been given more time to find himself an attorney. He is set to be back in court July 15.

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