Thursday, June 6, 1991
BOSTON (AP)- Seven years after Glenn Martin Heller was found innocent of price gouging at his Beacon Hill gas station, the federal government has finally forced him to pay back the money it says he stole from his customers.
On Tuesday, Heller, a former Monterey resident who now lives in Chevy Chase, Md., was fined almost $160,000 for selling gas at inflated prices from December 1976 to June 1979, U.S Attorney Wayne A. Budd said.
The bearded, bespectacled man who wore dirty red tennis shoes, jeans and wire-rimmed glasses, became infamous in the Boston area in the late 1970ís when he was accused of selling gasoline at prices that exceeded the price ceilings set by the Department of Energy, Budd said. The charges arose at a time when a gasoline shortage had spread throughout the country.
Even his supplier, the Gulf Oil Corp., went to court seeking to evict Heller for his alleged refusal to pay an increase in rent at his tiny Gulf station, then at the foot of Beacon Hill.
Heller defended himself by saying he was one of the few stations open 24 hours a day. He also cited his $1,000-per-month rent as justification.
The government didnít buy Hellerís story, but it turned out to be years before a court would order him to pay retribution.
Heller was first indicted for overcharges in a 1979 criminal case handled by the DOE. A 1980 conviction was overturned later that year and the case was remanded for a new trial. Peter Mullin, an assistant U.S district attorney, said yesterday.
There were further proceedings in district court in 1982. The federal government appealed the case between 1982 and 1984, because of objections to certain proceedings in district court, Mullin said.
Heller was found innocent of criminal charges in April 1984, in Boston in a trial before U.S District Court Judge Joseph Tauro.
Finally, U.S District Judge Douglas P. Woodlock on Tuesday ordered Heller to pay $159,689.96 in fines for overcharges and civil penalties.
Heller was ordered to pay $134,689.96 for overcharging customers and $25, 000 for violations of the Economic Stabilization Act of 1970 and the Emergency Petroleum Allocation Act of 1973.
The DOE also ordered him to pay an additional $54, 347. 98 for overcharging patrons, Budd said.
Heller was not available for comment last night, a woman who answered his phone said.
In recent years, before his move from the Berkshires, Heller took the role of local government watchdog, frequently objecting to what he saw as illegal or unwise actions by officials. His modus operandi included careful reading of various communitiesí legal advertisements for bids for contracted services and projects. He frequently found what he considered legal error, and communities in some cases were forced to readvertise.
He was involved in a number of controversies with officials in Monterey, Sheffield, Pittsfield and elsewhere. In Pittsfield he figured prominently in a 1986 conflict over the removal of crab apple trees form the cityís East Street median strip.