The owner of a Los Angeles-based carpet cleaning company was sentenced to three years probation July 21st stemming from his company’s widespread fraud operation that targeted customers in Southern California communities including Santa Monica.
Sharon “Sean” Gilboa pleaded guilty to ten criminal counts related to the case, Santa Monica Deputy City Attorney Adam Radinsky said. Gilboa’s company was formerly known as Clean Dry USA and later changed its names to Target Carpet Care, Clean N’ Dry Carpet and more recently SoCal Dry-Tech.
The company ran glossy color ads in the Clipper Magazine, Money Mailer, and other prominent advertising circulars. The ads offered to clean three rooms with carpeting for $49.95, using special “dry” cleaning technology, but when customers requested service, a different scenario took place, Radinsky said.
In some cases, the company sent an operative to the customer’s home who allegedly used bullying, intimidation, and false statements to coerce the customer into paying many times the advertised price, Radinsky said. Often the operative began “cleaning” before the customer agreed to any work, or to a price, he said.
The company representatives charged widely varying prices based on the perceived vulnerability of the customer, and elderly customers were charged more than other customers, he said of the cases. The work done was usually poor and most customers’ carpeting was left wet and in worse condition than before, Radinsky claimed.
The Santa Monica City Attorney’s Office began investigating the company after receiving a complaint from an 85-year-old local resident who responded to the company’s ad. The company operative reportedly demanded that she pay $2,000 to clean the carpet in her small, 570 square foot apartment, but when the woman balked at the price, the operative lowered his demand to $995, then to $795. The woman finally agreed to pay $560, still more than 1,000 percent over the advertised price, Radinsky said.
The woman claimed that her carpet was wet for three days and when she called the company to complain, they did not return her calls, he said.
“This is a shameful scam,” Radinsky said. “We caution everyone to use carpet cleaners only after verifying that the company is legitimate, with a real location, a local business license, and a good rating with the Better Business Bureau.”
Under the plea agreement reached with the Santa Monica City Attorney’s Office, Gilboa was sentenced to probation on the following terms:
– He provided full refunds to all known customers, totaling more than $20,000;
– He must perform 360 hours of hard labor community service;
– He is barred from any cleaning business in California; and
– He must discontinue all telephone numbers and advertisements of the company.
Gilboa was convicted of four counts of grand theft and six counts of false advertising, Radinsky said. The plea was taken July 21st at the Superior Court Airport Courthouse in Los Angeles.