For the thousands of customers who may have been defrauded by Bottini Fuel, refunds will soon be on the way.
The Wappingers Falls-based heating oil delivery company stole more than 1.7 million from customers by keeping overpayments and duplicate payments over a 12 year period, according to the New York State Attorney General's Office.
Now, the company has to repay more than $3.2 million in penalties and restitution as part of an agreement with the government.
According to the AG's office, Hudson Valley homeowners and businesses are owed $1,171,884 in refunds, and government entities will be repaid $590,887.
Approximately 2,500 customers were defrauded, which includes customers who canceled their services, said Rachel Shippee, deputy press secretary for the AG's office.
"The AG’s office has identified all affected customers," she said. "We will send out notices to defrauded customers within the next few weeks."
Once verification of responses has been completed, the checks will be sent shortly after, she said.
The scam was brought to light by a "whistleblower" who reported the company's actions to law enforcement.
An investigation by the AG's office found the company regularly transferred overpayments, or credit balances, out of customer accounts into fictitious intermediate “dummy” accounts in the company’s sales database without the customer’s knowledge. Once credit balances were transferred, customer accounts would show a zero balance, which was also reflected in subsequent bills and/or invoices to customers.
The credit balances transferred into dummy accounts were then diverted to customer accounts held by Bottini Fuel’s owners, friends, family members, certain employees, and businesses in which Bottini Fuel’s owners held an interest. Those transfers offset their balances, reducing amounts owed for fuel usage; in essence, Bottini Fuel used regular customers’ money to pay for their own personal fuel expenses and those of their friends, families, and other businesses.
Customers who have questions, or want to know if they are owed funds, can contact the AG's office directly at 212-416-8751.
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