LOWELL – The owner of a Chelmsford oil service company pleaded guilty for taking deposits from clients for work and repairs that were never performed, Middlesex District Attorney Gerry Leone announced this week. The Crier wrote an expose last February highlighting local elderly residents scammed by the heating company owner who apparently used his profession to bilk victims out of cash to cover up an alleged gambling problem.
According to District Attorney Gerry Leone, Michael Santaniello, 60, of Chelmsford, pleaded guilty in Lowell District Court to charges of larceny over $250 from a person over 60 years of age (4 counts), larceny over $250 (6 counts), larceny by check over $250, larceny over $250 by false pretenses, and failure to return leased personalty (personal, movable property).
Lowell District Court Judge Lynn Rooney sentenced the defendant to 2 ½ years in the House of Correction with 18 months to serve and the balance suspended for 2 years. Following that sentence, the defendant was ordered to serve another 2 ½ year House of Correction sentence to be suspended for 5 years. During that period when the sentence is suspended, the defendant will be on probation conditions that he not engage in any employment or volunteer work with the elderly or disabled, not operate or manage his own business, complete a money management course, attend Gambler’s Anonymous, and pay restitution.
“This defendant targeted seniors, many of whom had been his customers for years, and took advantage of them by taking deposits for work he never intended to perform and materials he never provided,” District Attorney Leone said. “This case demonstrates how addiction, when left untreated, can lead a person to such despair and selfishness that they would manipulate and deceive vulnerable, trusting members of our community who deserve better. I commend the good work of all the agencies involved whose collaborative efforts ensured that this defendant would be held accountable.”
“[Previously] I either paid after the service or gave a deposit and then the service was delivered as promised and the balance was paid,” Wilmington resident Chuck Otis told the Crier last year. “I had used him for over 15 years and he has become a crook over the last year. We need to warn people!”
Chuck Roberto, owner of Dependable Oil Service in Billerica, used to recommend Santaniello for oil tank work and service until spring 2010 when he began receiving calls from clients that Santaniello was not returning to do the work he promised.
“He was fine at one point, but he changed somehow,” Roberto said. “He is ruining my life I tell ya.”
Roberto shared many clients with Mike’s Oil Heat Service and said he has been trying to make it up to his clients by offering to cover the losses they have incurred. He said he also sent out a flyer last month warning people not to use Santaniello’s service.
“I want to try to help them. I want to try to repair my image,” Roberto said.
Otis filed a police report on Saturday, Feb. 4, 2011 with the Wilmington Police Department. Wilmington police told the Crier that a warrant for Santaniello’s arrest was issued in Chelmsford. According to Billerica Police Sergeant Frost, they had an incident in Nov. 2011 involving Santaniello. The case was investigated and charges were filed.
According to authorities, the defendant, owner of Mike’s Oil Heat Service in Chelmsford, stole from more than a dozen victims, many of whom are elderly, collecting deposits for service or repairs to oil tanks and burners. The work was never completed and new equipment was never delivered. In total, the defendant stole more than $21,000 from his customers. In addition, the defendant agreed to sell a trailer to a victim without furnishing the property.
In 2009, the defendant won a $1 million prize in the Massachusetts State Lottery, according to officials. Between August 2009 and June 2011, the defendant won an additional $23,000 from the Mass State Lottery.
The victims in this case are residents of Chelmsford, Billerica, Lexington, Burlington, Wilmington, Somerville, Bedford and Westford.
The Middlesex District Attorney’s Office, and the Chelmsford, Billerica, Lexington, Burlington, Wilmington, Somerville, Bedford and Westford police departments investigated the case.
Regina Krumholz was the Assistant District Attorney assigned to prosecute this case.