Eleven churches in Prince George's County teamed up to give away $25,000 in gas to the community at four gas stations across the county over the weekend, but one of those stations is accused of taking advantage of the effort.
Cars lined the side of Ritchie Road Saturday morning waiting for the gas giveaway event at the Sunoco on Marlboro Pike in Forestville, Maryland.
“The turnout was enormous,” said the Rev. Dr. Gerald Folsom, pastor of Hemingway Memorial African Methodist Episcopal Church.
“We just wanted to give a slight reprieve, a little bit of help to so many people who are choosing between filling up their tank and buying their groceries,” said the Rev. Dr. Bobby Manning, pastor of First Baptist Church of District Heights.
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But at the Marlboro Pike Sunoco, the price jumped 10 cents from $4.99 to $5.09 just before the giveaway began, and when the event was done, the price went back to $4.99, organizers said.
“What happened is the people in the community got cheated,” Folsom said.
News4 tried to find out why the price was raised during the church event and then lowered immediately after. A man who operates the repair garage said he was not responsible for gas pricing and provided a number to reach the station's owner, but there was no answer.
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Maryland State Del. Nick Charles (D-District 25), who represents the area, said he wants answers, too.
“Here we have a situation where you have the churches coming in at a time of need, the community coming together when people need it the most, and this station took advantage of the people, and I think it's disgusting what took place,” he said.
The gas station made more than $7,000 in a matter of hours thanks to the event.
“We want the businesses and the businesses in our community to love the community the way the church loves the community, and when we come together for opportunities like this to partner with us rather than take advantage of us,” Manning said.
Charles said he's reaching out to the attorney general's office to see if it can investigate what happened.
News4 made several attempts to contact the owner of the gas station, but he has not responded.