PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Jeffrey Gavlik uses wood pellets to heat his Harrisville, Rhode Island home. When he saw The Wilsonville Power Company advertising a good deal a few months ago, he jumped on it.
“The price at $225 a ton was the lowest anywhere around, so we went and purchased eight tons,” said Gavlik, who paid in full with a check for $1,860.
The check was cashed in September, and the Connecticut-based company delivered one ton of wood pellets in October.
“They said the rest would follow,” explained Gavlik. “Well, every time I called, I never got connected with anybody. Then I went there and there was nobody there.”
Target 12 reviewed court records and discovered the owner of the company, Alan Meisler, filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy late last month. When we went to the address for his business in North Grosvernordale, Connecticut, there was no sign of it, and Meisler’s phone numbers have all been disconnected.
“That was our whole heating for the winter,” said Gavlik. “We thought we were all set and now we’re not.”
Gavlik is one of 109 customers who have filed a complaint against The Wilsonville Power Company with the Connecticut Attorney General’s office.
“Businesses do go bankrupt,” said Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen. “There is nothing illegal about going bankrupt. The question is, did they take money from people knowing they were about to file for bankruptcy.”
Jepsen added his office has committed significant resources to this investigation.
“If somebody took money from consumers knowing that the business would be in a position not to deliver the product, there can be personal liability. The question, in the end, is what kind of assets are there to divide up between the affected consumers,” said Jepsen.
Jepsen offered some tips to help consumers protect themselves from similar situations.
“Consumers need to understand that when you’re buying a product for future delivery, you’re relying on the fact that the business is going to be in business, so it’s important to make sure that they’re credit-worthy, particularly if they’re a start-up or a new business,” he said.
Jepsen said it’s also better to pay with your credit card.
“If there’s a failure to deliver a product that you’ve paid for by credit card, you can contest that charge,” he explained.
According to court records, Meisler has filed for bankruptcy two times previously. We tried repeatedly to reach Meisler and his attorney for comment for this story.