A multi-million dollar scheme involving the theft, resale and purchase of stolen heating oil has led the New York County District Attorney’s Office issuing 44 indictments, including for 29 truck drivers, earlier this week.
The defendants in the case allegedly scammed their customers using a variety of methods to rig the meters on tanker trucks to evade regulatory controls and conceal the actual amount of oil delivered to customers.
The fradulent methods included the use of a bypass valve that would divert oil to a hose leading back to the truck’s tank, and pumping air instead of oil by using magnets to manipulate the meter’s air eliminator.
Shorting customers on deliveries led to a surplus of oil that the defendants would then resell to other customers and oil companies at reduced prices. Around $34 million worth of oil was stolen and resold using these methods, according to a New York Times report.
These actions took place between Sept. 2006 and Oct. 2015 and affected the owners of residential, commercial and municipal properties throughout New York City.
“The victims of these alleged schemes include all those who managed, worked, or lived in the affected buildings, as well as the City itself,” said Cyrus R. Vance, Manhattan District Attorney. “And when schools, hospitals, and police precincts were shorted— it was residents and taxpayers who paid the price and suffered the consequences.”
Several heating oil transportation and retail companies were included in the indictment along with their owners, fuel depot dispatchers and truck drivers.
Depending on the individual indicted, the defendants are being charged with enterprise corruption, grand larceny, scheme to defraud, criminal possession of stolen property, falsifying business records, and offering a false instrument for filling.
“While this investigation focused on business consumers and City contracts, we have strengthened our inspection process and instituted new measures to ensure all customers, including residential customers, are protected from these types of scams,” said Julie Menin, Commissioner of the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs.
“No one should ever be overcharged, especially for something as necessary as heating oil," she added,