Dozens In Cold Despite Paying Heating Oil Bills Months Ago

Dozens of people who said they paid to have their heating oil tanks filled are sitting in the cold.

Complaints have poured in to the NBC 10 Investigators, so Lu Ann Cahn went to the head of that company to get some answers.

The people who called and e-mailed said they paid for heating oil back in the spring and summer because they were promised a special deal. The deal now is they're cold, their money is gone and business owner David Gappa isn't answering the phone.

"David? Can I just talk to you? I'm Lu Ann Cahn with Channel 10. Can I just talk to you?" Cahn asked Gappa as he walked toward a building.

Parishioners at Holy Trinity Orthodox Church want a word with him, too.

"We're not available now. Please leave your name and number after the beep and we will return your call," said a recorded message at the phone number for David Gappa Oil.

"Hello, David Gappa. This is Father David Mahaffey," said the reverend.

Mahaffey -- who told NBC 10 he never gets a call back -- kept the thermostat at a chilly 52 degrees for weeks, trying to conserve what was left of the heating oil in the basement of the Pottstown church.

"I have to hold this up because it will fall down," Mahaffey said, holding a door as he showed where the oil tank sits.

Back in the spring, parishioners held a special fundraiser to pre-pay Gappa $3,000 and get a low rate for heating oil.

But when winter came, the oil they paid for wasn't delivered.

"It's the church's money and so, in good faith, we gave it to him and, in good faith, we would expect fuel oil. And we've received nothing," Mahaffey said.

Church leaders said what has happened is a sin.

"He hasn't been very forthcoming with the truth," said another church official.

Joe Zukoski said he thinks it's a crime.

"You just pray that you can stretch it out and eat Cheerios two or three nights a week instead of a good dinner," Zukoski said.

He was laughing but he wasn't kidding. Zukoski is disabled, on a fixed income and cold. He keeps the thermostat at 52 degrees. He pre-paid for his heating oil, too.

"It's terrible, and what do you do? You count on something like that. I had my money put away for that," Zukoski said.

"They've complained sometimes that they're cold, and they want to know if they can plug in their electric heater," said Tanya Butler, of Collegeville.

She and her husband, Tom, have 5 children, one of them with special needs.

The Butlers said they pre-paid $2,000 to Gappa for oil. Now, they have to buy from another company at the highest rate.

"I never put anything on my credit card that I can't pay when that bill comes, and now I'm going to have to," Butler said.

"I want my money or I want my oil. That's what I want," Mike Herrigel said.

The Pottstown man is helping to organize a class-action lawsuit against Gappa, who also manages a restaurant in Phoenixville.

"We're doing a story about your company, and there's just a lot of people asking a lot of questions," Cahn told Gappa.

"Call my attorney," Gappa replied.

"David is getting financing … making necessary arrangements so he can reimburse customers in February. … What happened is not criminal or fraud," said Gappa's attorney, Adam Sager, adding that his client "ran into problems."

Meanwhile, back Holy Trinity Orthodox, something the churchmen consider miraculous happened while NBC 10 was there.

"Somebody came, an angel came and gave us some fuel," Mahaffey said.

"When did this happen?" Cahn asked.

"I don't know. It's full," the reverend said.

"This is quite a surprise. I wasn't prepared for this," said the other man.

"Go turn the heat up," said Mahaffey, chuckling.

The angel turned out to be the Oehlert Bros. Inc., which said the church could pay whenever it can, Cahn reported.

The Pennsylvania Attorney General and the Chester County District Attorney said they are investigating complaints against David Gappa Oil.

Angry customers planned to meet Thursday night.

Contact Us