Investigators with the Oklahoma Attorney General’s office have discovered that some businesses are taking advantage of Oklahoma tornado victims, ABC News reports. The office found evidence of price-gouging, including one grocery store who was allegedly charging $40 for a case of water.
Under the Emergency Price Stabilization Act, which was passed after a tornado caused significant damage across a large part of Oklahoma in 1999, prohibits price increases of more than 10 percent on goods and services for “the duration of a declaration of emergency” by the Governor or the President and for 30 days after. By 2011, the law was in effect in all 77 Oklahoma counties.
“This statute is meant to protect Oklahomans during some of their most vulnerable times,” Attorney General Scott Pruit said. Pruitt and investigators from his office began scouring the region for fraud just hours after the tornado came through, and were quick to find businesses in violation.
“This is something we were putting in place and starting in motion as soon as we knew the threat existed,” Pruit told ABC News on Wednesday. “We’re going places where we think potential harm could occur.”
While common decency is clearly lacking in anyone who would choose to exploit victims of tragedy in order to make a profit, at least in Oklahoma, the Attorney General and his staff seem to be on top of things. Pruit told ABC they are fielding tips from citizens and law enforcement alike, have set up an emergency hotline to report fraud, and are investigating not only the areas directly hit, but surrounding locations as well.
Alisha is a writer and researcher for Ring of Fire.