Feds, town seek to collect unpaid taxes from former oil dealer Fred Fuller

By DAVID BROOKS

Monitor staff

Published: 09-05-2023 3:25 PM

Almost a decade after the state was forced to step in because Fred Fuller Oil Co. wasn’t delivering heating oil to customers amid a January polar vortex, the federal government is still trying to collect more than a half-million dollars in unpaid business taxes and Bow wants almost $20,000 in unpaid property taxes on a 5,000-square-foot house in town.

According to documents filed in the case in U.S. District Court in Concord, federal authorities are seeking $637,228 to cover $493,147  in unpaid tax plus fees and fines. A lower court ruled that the payments were due despite Fuller’s claim that the matter was still being worked out, and U.S. District Court Judge Landya McAfferty agreed with that ruling in an Aug. 31 decision.

On July 31, Fuller told the court he had not responded previously to the default judgment because “I have been dealing with health and financial issues,” according to the decision.

McAfferty wrote that “Fuller has not shown that he acted in good faith, especially considering the long delay and his inadequate explanation for it.” In addition, his request to postpone the payment was suspiciously timed since he “has been aware of this case for approximately one year since he was served, but he did not appear in this case until the last day to object to the default judgment.”

The decision also noted that the Bow house was owned by “Bow Sterling Place Realty Trust, which the government alleged to be Fuller’s alter ego and/or a sham trust.”

Fred Fuller Co. was a long-time provider of heating oil and propane, based in Hudson. In January 2014, during a polar vortex when temperatures fell below zero complaints began to surface from customers running out of oil even though they had paid in advance for automatic refills.  The company blamed missed deliveries and a near-total inability to contact any of its six state offices by telephone on a variety of factors, but the problem was so bad that the state created a hotline that drew complaints from more than 650 Fuller customers in less than a day and stepped in to ensure oil deliveries. 

Legislators later tightened laws about pre-buy contracts for heating oil in response to the crisis.

Fuller Oil declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy 10 months later, on Nov. 11, 2014, one day before a trial was set to begin on a 2013 lawsuit alleging that Fred Fuller, the company’s owner, had sexually harassed two female employees. The two women were eventually awarded $2.7 million and $1 million, respectively.

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Fred Fuller Oil Co. was sold one week after its bankruptcy filing to Rymes Propane & Oil of Concord for $10 million.

In a separate action, the town of Bow is seeking $19,707 in unpaid property tax on a 5,062-square foot house at 43 Sterling Place that sold for $686,000 back in 2011. On Aug. 15 the town filed a statement with the federal court, reiterating that efforts to collect back taxes “still remains in place.”

Christopher Hilson, attorney for Bow, wrote that the letter was being filed “out of an abundance of caution” because Fred Fuller had stated in a July letter that “as to the property taxes in the town of Bow, I have intentions to pay them when this mess is settled,” meaning after he had settled with the federal government. 

“The Town files this response merely to disabuse any party, including Mr. Fuller, from any misapprehension that the State taxation collection protocol is paused during the pendency of this matter,” he wrote. 

Fuller was paid up in taxes until the most recent filing, according to Town Administrator David Stack.

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