May 20, 2018
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Auction of defunct fuel company’s assets set for April 26 in Brunswick

By Beth Brogan,Times Record

BRUNSWICK, Maine — An April 26 auction will liquidate the vehicular assets of Thibeault Energy, which closed its doors Jan. 22 after more than 80 years in business, leaving hundreds of midcoast region customers without heating fuel — or the money they prepaid.

Area residents who lost money to the company remain skeptical that they will reap any of the proceeds from the auction or the sale of the company’s former Pleasant Street headquarters.

Ross Finn of Joseph Finn Co. Inc. in Newton, Mass., confirmed Monday that the auction is scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. Tuesday, April 26. Information provided by the auction house indicates that bidding will take place at 15 Bibber Road in Brunswick, the former site of the Thibeault Energy fuel depot.

On-site and online bidding will be allowed. Potential buyers can view vehicles that will be up for auction during an inspection period between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. Monday at 15 Bibber Road.

Among the 36 items listed for auction are eight fuel delivery trucks, a Kenworth Liquid Propane Gas delivery truck, two Mack and three Ford tandem axle trailers, four tank trailers, a box trailer and a flatbed trailer, utility trucks, pickup trucks and a van.

Finn said he’s not sure if the auction results from a bankruptcy proceeding and he declined to name the party who contacted his company other than to call it “the secured party.” According to its website, Joseph Finn Co. Inc. provides auctions, appraisals and liquidation of assets for companies and banks.

Thibeault Energy closed its doors Jan. 22 after more than 80 years in business, leaving prepaid customers and others in the midcoast region scurrying to fill their oil tanks on some of the coldest days of the year.

A message at the Thibeault phone number for months stated that the company ceased operations “for reasons beyond its control.”

The Maine Attorney General’s Office received hundreds of consumer complaints about the company, and launched an investigation into whether a civil violation of a state law occurred. The Maine Attorney General’s Office has yet to make any public statement on the results of that investigation.

State government was closed Monday for the Patriot’s Day state holiday and Tuesday as a furlough day.

Prompted by local legislators acting on behalf of their aggrieved constituents, Gov. Paul LePage convened a Feb. 8 summit and worked with local credit unions to offer no-interest fuel-assistance loans to former Thibeault customers.

Then, on Feb. 10, a letter from “The Thibeault Family” to “Our Valued and Loyal Customers,” announced the company’s closure and notified them that M.W. Sewall had purchased Thibeault’s propane tanks.

The letter offered former customers no hope of recouping any of the money they had paid in advance for fuel, however.

“Many of you are wondering about the credit balances on your accounts,” the letter states. “At this point, we are unable to return any funds to customers.”

As of Monday morning, Thibeault Energy had not filed for bankruptcy protection in U.S. Bankruptcy Court, according to the online Public Access to Court Electronic Records database.

Nor had Vivian J. Thibeault, who is listed as the company’s president, treasurer and sole shareholder-director, according to the secretary of state’s Bureau of Corporations, Elections and Commissions.

Thibeault attorney Jennie S.L. Clegg of Marcus, Clegg & Mistretta P.A. in Portland did not respond to phone and email messages left Monday.

Mike Ballback of Brunswick prepaid Thibeault $1,830.47 for fuel when the company closed, but had only received one delivery.

In January, Ballback told The Times Record that he had called Dana Thibeault, son of company owner Vivian Thibeault, to complain, but was told the company couldn’t deliver any more propane or oil.

At the end of February, after contacting Bath attorney David Sinclair, Ballback sent certified letters to the company office on Pleasant Street, to the Thibeaults’ home, and to Clegg, Ballback said Monday.

“Basically, we put the company on notice that we wanted our money back,” he said. “We haven’t heard a word from anyone, including the Attorney General’s Office.”

Ballback said he thinks the investigation into Thibeault’s finances has “gone back burner.”

“I’d like to know where all this money [from the auction] is going” and whether any will be dedicated to repaying customers, Ballback said. “It’s very, very frustrating. I think the money’s gone. I don’t think we’re going to see it.”

“I came home one night to a cold house and when I called Thibeault, I got a recording telling me to call somebody else,” Donna Allen of Harpswell wrote Monday in an email to The Times Record. “I think it’s a shame they did what they did. I feel sorry for their employees, too. I filed a complaint with the [attorney general] and I haven’t heard anything else.”

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