PONTIAC - A Pontiac business owner appears to be the victim of a false e-mail accusing him of refusing to serve soldiers and their families.
"Nothing in that e-mail is true," said Satvinder Singh, who owns the Marathon gas station at 922 W. Custard Ave., Pontiac. "I respect everybody. I wouldn't refuse service to anyone."
The Pantagraph has been unable to find anyone with a first-hand account of the incidents described in the e-mail, several versions of which have been widely circulated throughout Central Illinois.
The basic version of the e-mail says a Pakistani station operator - Singh actually is a U.S. citizen from India - refused service to soldiers dressed in fatigues. The station owner also is accused of saying to a later customer that he would ask soldiers to leave his store.
The sender of the e-mail encourages recipients to stop patronizing the store.
The woman whose name appears as the sender of the e-mail learned of the e-mail on Wednesday. When contacted by The Pantagraph Thursday evening, she declined to comment.
Members of the Pontiac National Guard have been unable to find any soldiers within their unit who have experienced such discrimination.
"To my knowledge, there hasn't been anyone in the store," said National Guard public information officer Capt. Bud Roberts. "It is not an issue. We don't dwell on rumors."
The Livingston County Veterans Assistance Commission also has been unable to confirm information in the email.
According to snopes.com, a Web site that posts investigation of folklore and urban legends, the basic story of the e-mail has circulated on the Internet since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Singh has operated the station, formerly a Clark station, for three years.
"I am so mad because this is my business," he said. "I don't want to lose any of my business. All people are welcome at my store. I don't know why this happened."
Singh said he spends very little time in the store and didn't work Sunday, when the incident is said to have occurred.
"He is one of the nicest people you will ever meet," said Alec Durousseau, who works evenings at the station. "Everything in that e-mail is untrue. It's a complete lie."
Tory Zarwell, another employee, and Durousseau said they have never seen Singh express anti-American feelings. They both pointed out an American flag flies in front of the station.
The e-mail has been sent widely throughout Pontiac and Livingston County. Versions have been sent to Bloomington, and as far away as Champaign and Peoria.