City investigators looking into fraud in the heating oil industry raided one of the biggest players in town Thursday, seizing computers and boxes of documents.
The city Business Integrity Commission, which has targeted the industry for decades of ripping off public and private sector clients, showed up at dawn to serve search warrants at the Bay Ridge, Brooklyn offices of Approved Oil Co.
Approved Oil and its president, Vincent Theurer, call themselves the biggest family-owned home heating oil retailer in New York. The firm claims to serve 40% of New York City’s residences.
Early Thursday, inspectors with BIC and the NYPD were seen removing boxes and computers from Approved’s Fourth Ave. headquarters. Other inspectors targeted a nearby garage where Approved’s trucks park to inspect the vehicles.
In past investigations, BIC has found heating oil companies rig trucks to cheat customers by billing them for thousands of gallons of oil that they never receive.
On Thursday, BIC officials declined to discuss the reason for the raids. Approved Oil did not respond to a Daily News request for comment.
Last year the firm was a key player in pressing the City Council to pass a bill requiring increased use of bio-fuel in the city. The fuel is made from soybeans mixed with petroleum to reduce harmful emissions. Approved Oil is one of the biggest sellers of bio-fuel in New York.
In October, Mayor de Blasio signed the bill, which will increase the required level of bio-fuel in heating oil every year — from 2% to 20% by 2034.
After the signing at City Hall, a smiling de Blasio posed for a photo with Theurer. Approved Oil posted the photo on its website, noting that one of its top executives “worked tirelessly” to get the bill passed.
Theurer is a trustee of the Teamsters union that represents heating oil truck drivers and has been an officer of the New York Oil Heating Association trade group.
Both the union and the trade group have been fighting a pending bill sponsored by Councilman Antonio Reynoso (D-Brooklyn) that would give BIC increased oversight of the heating oil business.
In 2016 and this year, the association hired lobbyist Michael Woloz — de Blasio’s biggest campaign fundraiser during his 2013 mayoral bid. Woloz raised $ 236,865 for de Blasio that year.
The mayor has yet to take a position on Reynoso’s bill.
In November 2015, BIC, the city Department of Investigation and the Manhattan District Attorney charged nine heating oil companies and 44 company executives, dispatchers and drivers in a massive fraud scheme. Approved Oil was not among the companies charged.
Announcing the arrests, BIC Commissioner Dan Brownell estimated the city of New York alone loses $ 10 million a year to this type of fraud.