Church loses thousands after Norton Oil company abruptly closes

Author: , Reporter, @CatherineH_WFMZ, chawley@wfmz.com
Published: Dec 05 2013 06:05:37 PM EST   Updated On: Dec 06 2013 12:19:26 PM EST

Hundreds of people in Pennsylvania and New Jersey are scrambling to figure out how to heat their homes after a local oil company abruptly closed.

Officials say after being a fixture in the region for nearly 75 years, Norton Oil suddenly shut down in early November.

Officials with Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Bethlehem say they thought they found a reliable local company when they started doing business with Norton Oil.

"We really trusted this company," said Rev. Lori Kochanski. "And we have been with them since 2010 and never had an issue."

Back in July the church pre-paid more than $26,000 to heat a church-owned apartment building. Since then they've received almost nothing in return.

Officials say oil was delivered three weeks ago, but that was the last time they heard from Norton Oil.

"We got no information from Norton at all as far as what was happening," said Sandy Beidler.

It's the same story for Beidler. She forked over about $4,000: money Norton took with it when it quickly and quietly closed its doors a few weeks ago.

"I think what they did was deplorable," Beidler added.

Warren County Officials say they've received more than 235 complaints about Norton in just the last 14 days.

Customers say they were blindsided when they found out the family company folded, taking pre-paid money and promised heating oil with it.

Michael Santos with the County Department of Weights and Measures says he's been swamped with calls from people looking for answers.

"It was one of the best providers of this service that we had, and that's why it's so disturbing and distressing to see how poorly they're going out of business."

The department is trying to help customers, but Norton Oil is making it clear it is not reimbursing pre-paid customers, or providing promised oil.

"Four Points Oil Company did not buy Norton Oil Company or assume any liability for money owed to budget or pre-buy customers," said a message on the company's answering machine Thursday.

69 News is still waiting to hear back from Norton Oil's attorney for an official comment.

"It's just a really tough, horrible situation to be in," explained Kochanski.

"I don't think they should get away with what they're doing," Beidler added. "I think they should be held responsible for what they've done, to a lot of people."

The New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs is trying to build a case against Norton Oil.

If you have been affected, please call the Warren County Department of Weights and Measures at 908-453-2828.