CITY HALL — Accused of false advertising and elder abuse, a carpet cleaning company in the San Fernando Valley was hit with a criminal complaint by the Santa Monica City Attorney’s Office this week.

The 16-count complaint against Sharon Gilboa and his company, Woodland Hills-based Clean Dry USA, claims bait and switch tactics in which numerous clients from throughout Southern California were allegedly victimized, including a Santa Monica resident.

The charges, which were filed on behalf of the Los Angeles City Attorney, include grand theft by false pretenses, false advertising and elder abuse. Three of the victims, including the Santa Monica woman, are senior citizens. The Santa Monica City Attorney will prosecute the case.

Gilboa and Clean Dry USA, Inc. are scheduled to be arraigned at the Airport Courthouse on March 17. The misdemeanor charges each carry a maximum sentence of one year in county jail and fine of up to $2,500.

The Consumer Protection Unit with the City Attorney’s Office began investigating the company after it received a complaint from a Santa Monica resident in late 2008. Officials ultimately received more than a dozen complaints.

“Our investigation revealed that there were a number of other victims throughout Southern California who had done business with this same company,” Deputy City Attorney Adam Radinsky said.

Mark Werksman, the attorney representing Gilboa, refuted the allegations, calling them baseless.

“This case was a result of a huge misunderstanding and misinterpretation of how this company works and what they do for their company,” Werksman said. “When all the facts are presented, then it will be clear that there was no wrongdoing on the part of anyone and that what we simply had is a number of customers whose complaints are groundless.”

He added that the company was always careful to be clear and precise as to what it was charging for its services.

According to the company’s Web site, Clean Dry USA offers various services including carpet, upholstery and area rug cleaning.

The Better Business Bureau, which has received 51 complaints over the past three years, gave the company an F rating. An analysis on the complaints states that customers complain that the technicians employed “high pressure tactics or intimidation to persuade them to agree to much higher priced services.”

Some have claimed that after cleaning, the carpet was visibly the same.

“The company responds to complaints by explaining that the customers were aware that their carpets may not come clean with the dry cleaning method due to heavy soiling, and generally agree to send a technician back to the home for recleaning,” the analysis continues. “To address allegations of bait and switch, or overcharging, the company contends that customers did not have to agree to the charges, but did, and provided a breakdown of their charges.”

Several dissatisfied customers have posted warnings on sites like ComplaintsBoard.com and RipoffReport.com, some claiming false advertising, others alleging that their floors were destroyed in the cleaning process.

One customer on RipoffReport.com stated that the company refused to honor their satisfaction guarantee to refund their money or return and re-clean the carpets.

“They did nothing to rectify the situation,” the poster said. “They use deceptive advertising in their ads.”

Customers who believe they have been victimized by Clean Dry USA or an affiliate company known as Target Carpet Care are encouraged to contact the Consumer Protection Unit at (310) 458-8336 or smconsumer.org

melodyh@smdp.com

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