Saturday, November 14, 2015
New York City Heating Oil Scam
Nov. 10, 2015 More than three dozen employees from the city’s largest oil companies were busted Tuesday in a scam that ripped off millions of dollars from numerous city agencies including the FDNY and NYPD, authorities said Tuesday.
The crooked oil executives, drivers and dispatchers, 44 in total, are accused of rigging their trucks to shortchange customers, including hospitals, schools and churches then selling the stolen fuel at a reduced price on the black market, said Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance at a press conference Tuesday.
“No illicit business or black market can be allowed to operate while honest New Yorkers are working hard to keep their homes warm during colder months,” he said. “It was residents and taxpayers who paid the price and suffered the consequences.”
The indictment alleges that the nine companies including Casanova Fuel Oil, Inc in the Bronx, G&D Heating Oil, Inc in Brooklyn and Century Star in Westchester used various schemes to swindle customers in all five boroughs from Sept of 2006 to Oct of 2015.
Some of the trucks were outfitted with special valves that diverted heating oil to a hose leading to a tank at the back of the truck while the meter falsely registered delivery of the full order.
Another tactic pumped air into tanks instead of oil forcing unwitting customers to pay the full cost of a half-delivered order.
Dispatchers were paid kickbacks to send drivers to easy targets.
The alleged swindlers then took the stolen fuel and sold it to other customers at a reduced price and the profit went right back into the coffers of the greedy companies, authorities said.
The unscrupulous vendors ripped off their customers to the tune of more than $18 million a year including $4 million from city agencies, said Department of Investigation Commissioner Mark Peters.
“That’s real money. Money that could have done something for the people of this City,” he said. “These defendants’ charged actions expose a story of contempt for the people of this City, quite literally, laughing their way to the bank.”
Authorities had captured one truck driver on a phone wiretap bragging about how he’d duped a customer, Peters said.
“Investigators recorded a fuel truck driver mockingly describing how he fooled a building manager into unknowingly shorting his own fuel delivery – by throwing the lever that filled his own tank with air,” he said.
The victims include Third Street Men’s Shelter in the East Village, the Food and Finance High School in Midtown, the 26th Precinct and even the Manhattan Criminal Courthouse, where the case is being prosecuted.
The investigation began after a whistleblower reported the widespread scheme to authorities, Vance said.
Investigators began rounding up suspects early Tuesday morning, and they’re expected to be arraigned this afternoon in Manhattan Supreme Court.
Prosecutors charged 29 truck drivers, 3 dispatchers and 12 oil company executives including Fazil Hatim of F&S Distribution, Inc, Winston Lopez of Casanova Fuel Oil, Inc and Irving Lopez of Express Petroleum, Inc.
The indictments were a result of a two-year joint investigation with the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, the NYPD, the New York City Business Integrity Commission, the New York City Department of Investigation and other agencies.http://nypost.com/2015/11/10/heating-oil-companies-delivered-less-fuel-than-paid-for-in-city-wide-scam/