Associated Press – Water system scammers hit S. Oregon

Water system scammers hit S. Oregon

03/22/2009

Associated Press

When the salesman told Teodoro Perez his tap water was poisoning his family, Perez ponied up $5,000 for a filtering system.

The pitch was convincing when the salesman knocked on his door and offered a free water test. He filled a vial from Perez’s tap, added an unnamed chemical, and watched as the water turned yellow.

“He said my water was very bad,” Perez said.

Problem was, his water was just fine.

But he signed the contract and American Home Solutions sent a plumber to install the unit.

His payments began at around $130 a month but rose quickly. There had been no mention of the 18 percent interest. The system was going to cost him about $8,000.

Plus, the plumbers did a poor job, and the drawer under Perez’s sink suffered water damage.

“And then I went to the water commission and they told me Medford’s water is very good and I didn’t need such a system,” Perez said.

Medford ranks high for clean drinking water. Medford routinely competes in contests across the country to determine cities have the best drinking water.

Perez told a friend about his situation and was referred to the Help Now! advocacy center.

“We have known of this scam affecting those in the Latino community,” said Larry Kahn, executive director of Help Now! “We have found at least four other Latino families who have bought this system from American Home Solutions.”

A Google search turned up other complaints against the company. Phone calls to the business seeking comment for this story were not returned.

The business is not licensed to conduct plumbing work in Oregon, according to the state’s contractor board.

Help Now! advocates contacted American Home Solutions about getting Perez a refund. At first the company refused, but when presented with evidence that it is not a licensed plumber in Oregon, the company relented, Kahn said.

Perez said the company agreed to stop charging him for the system, but has not yet returned to remove it.

“If they did come back I would want my lawyer here, because I think they would do more damage removing it,” Perez said.

Medford police Sgt. Kevin Walruff, who specializes in financial crimes, suggested asking to see a company’s permits and licenses if people are solicited at home.

Some who bought the system don’t want to fight to get their money back, Kahn said.

“They tell us it is working which it does but is not needed, and this company does not have the right to work in this state,” Kahn said. “They would get the same result if they bought a $25 charcoal water filter to screw onto their faucet.”

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