An Anaheim Hills couple who operated a string of 200 Southern California service stations drew eight-year state prison terms Wednesday and were ordered to pay $162 million for selling adulterated gasoline and violating California pollution and tax laws.
The sentences of Gary and Divine Grace Lazar in Los Angeles County Superior Court end one of the most extensive state and local investigations ever of gasoline and cigarette tax fraud and of violations of laws covering air pollution and underground fuel tank inspection. The Lazars entered no-contest pleas last fall to 54 felony counts. Prosecutors asked Superior Court Judge Paul G. Flynn to send each defendant to prison for eight years and to assess fines and penalties of $652 million.
Lead prosecutor Anthony G. Patchett, a deputy district attorney in Los Angeles County's environmental crimes division, had sought the higher fine to send a message to others in the retail gasoline business.
Authorities alleged that the couple doctored gasoline, faked tests on leaky underground fuel tanks and failed to pay nearly $25 million in state sales, gas and cigarette taxes.