PLEASANTON (CBS SF) — A Pleasanton grocery store and its owner have been charged with price gouging during the state of emergency, in some cases raising prices for items more than 300 percent, according to state and local authorities.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra and Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley announced Thursday their offices jointly filed a complaint charging Apna Bazar, a large grocery store on Pimlico Drive near Santa Rita Road in Pleasanton, along with its owner Rajvinder Singh. The nine misdemeanors counts are the first-ever prosecution of price gounging in Alameda County.

In a press statement, Becerra and O’Malley said that Apna Bazar customers complaining about increased food prices at the store shortly after the state of emergency was declared in California with complaints reacing the DA’s office through phone calls, e-mails and social media posts.

California law prohibits charging a price that exceeds the price of an item before an emergency declaration by more than 10 percent.

The complaint alleges that Singh and Apna Bazar in Pleasanton illegally raised the prices of essential food items over the 10 percent threshold after March 4 when Gov. Newsom declared a state of emergency in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Evidence from customer receipts multiple interviews confirmed pricing on several food items exceeded not just 10 percent, but some in excess of 300 percent more than what was previously charged.

Other Apna Bazar locations in the Bay Area were not part in this investigation.

“The law prevents businesses from profiteering when we are in a state of emergency. All businesses throughout Alameda County must be on notice that we will not sit idly by and allow consumers to fall prey to price gouging,” said O’Malley in the prepared statement. “My office will ensure that businesses adhere to the law and do not exploit consumers.”

“We take price gouging seriously and are committed to going after those who break the law during the public health emergency,” said Becerra. “The Department of Justice relies on all Californians to be vigilant in detecting price gouging. If you see something suspicious, or if you are a victim of price gouging, file a complaint. The more you report, the more we can stop this abuse.”

Victims of price gouging or those in Alameda County with information about potential price gouging were urged to report it at pricegouging@acgov.org.

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