Motorists who pulled up to the fuel pumps at Magic Gas in Echo Park this morning encountered some unfamiliar faces: officers with the U.S. Secret Service and LAPD. The neighborhood station at Echo Park and Morton avenues was closed in what appeared to be an investigation (The station is now open. Read update below). One person wore a jacket reading “Investigator Petroleum Enforcement,” and residents saw gasoline being poured into containers. “It’s closed today,” said a man bearing a Secret Service badge. He did not say what prompted the investigation or how long the station would be closed.*
Residents were left to wonder what was going on. “I was trying to get gas this morning at 7:40 from Magic Gas and was deterred by the Secret Service,” said one Magic Gas customer by email. “They would not let me and told me to leave. They were pumping gas into containers.”
* Update: Late this afternoon owners, Zina Mikayelyan and Art Bagousky, who purchased and reopened the station early last year, said they were not the target of any investigation. The station was open and selling gas. The couple said the investigators were there in response to a legal judgement and tax issues related to the previous owner. “If there was anything wrong, I would have been gone a long time ago,” said Mikayelyan as a gasoline tanker truck pulled up with a new supply of fuel.
Wayne Williams, a Secret Service spokesman in Los Angeles, said this afternoon that “we are looking at possible fraudulent purchases of gasoline” in partnership with other federal and state agencies. “A lot of the charges have yet to be filed. There is not much else to tell you at this point.”