The containers the man used to store and transport the gas--five gallon Home Depot buckets--are unsafe, says the law. Both the man and the gasoline station owner who sold him the gas face misdemeanor charges for that reason.
From the MSNBC version of the story, which uses the phrase "gas hoarding case" in the headline. From the letter of the law, what Mr. Yunus Latif is charged with is not hoarding gas per se, but doing so in unsafe containers:
According to investigators, Yunus Latif, of Richmond Hill, collected money from his neighbors, bought gas at a Valero station almost 80 miles away in Orange and planned to bring it back to his neighborhood, where they had no power and gas....
Just before 9 p.m. on Saturday in Orange, police found buckets filled with 4 gallons each stacked inside Latif's van and it looked like the lids were beginning to expand, officials said.
That owner of the Valero gas station, located at 347 Boston Post Road, was arrested as well.
Police claimed Muniruzzaman Gomosta, 41, should have known what Latif was doing since he came into the store several times to pay for buckets of gasoline.
Gomosta said the gas station was very busy and he did not realize that Latif was filling five-gallon buckets with gas, said police.
Some reasons why what he did was unsafe. Whether the application of such laws diligently in times of emergency is the best use of police attention and time, whether that choice on the part of the cops was the best application of protecting and serving given the realities of a powerless community, seems a genuinely open question.
The story does not address what brought the police to be examining the containers in the back of Mr. Latif's van. Mr. Latif and his neighbors with no gas or power were not allowed to enjoy the fruits of their ill-stored gains; the gas was confiscated and returned to underground storage tanks.