TALLAHASSEE- Attorney General Charlie Crist today announced the creation of
the Attorney General's Hurricane Task Force intended to stop the potential
onslaught of price gougers emerging in the wake of Hurricane Charley.
Criminal and civil investigators from the Attorney General's Office have
been mobilized statewide for a crackdown on price gouging on items that are
in high demand following a hurricane such as food, water, hotels, ice,
gasoline and lumber.
Today Attorney General Crist will be with the Governor touring the areas
damaged from the storm. Deputy Attorney General for Central Florida John
Carassas will convene the task force in Tampa today to review final
mobilization details before investigators are dispatched into the field.
"The most important thing is for our citizens to be safe," said Crist.
"One of the most egregious things a business can do is to take advantage of
our citizens through price gouging. The Hurricane Task Force is prepared
to identify and prosecute all violators of the price gouging statute."
As a result of Governor Bush's declaration of a state of emergency, the
price gouging statute requires that the cost of necessities like food and
water must remain at the price that was average during the 30 days
immediately prior to Hurricane Charley's making landfall. Otherwise,
violators of the statute are subject to civil penalties of $1,000 per
violation up to a total of $25,000 for multiple violations committed in a
single 24-hour period.
Crist encourages all Floridians impacted by Hurricane Charley to continue
reporting potential price gougers to the state's toll-free hotline,
1-800-646-0444. The more quickly citizens report suspected price gougers
to the hotline, the more promptly investigators can respond to the problem.