Three lawsuits have been filed by Beaufort residents who allege they were cheated out of thousands of dollars when they agreed to buy water filtration systems.
Beaufort attorney Jim Moss filed the suits on behalf of Tiffany Gomez, Susan Wargo, and Michael and Ruth Motyka between Sept. 6 and Nov. 13. Moss has requested jury trial for all three cases, according to the complaints filed with the Beaufort County Clerk of Courts.
The lawsuits list Robert Ciano, Island Property Management LLC and Castle Credit Corp. as defendants. They all are accused of fraud, unfair trade practices and civil conspiracy. The Wargo and Gomez suits also allege breach of contract.
Attempts to reach attorneys listed in the lawsuits were unsuccessful.
Wargo and Motyka say Ciano came to their homes after they responded to a "Tide challenge," in which they were to receive a free box of detergent.
All three were told they would receive filtration systems, but instead received water softeners, according to the complaints and the plaintiffs. The systems cost them about $4,900 each. Gomez was told the system would be $499, but the price was changed without her knowledge, according to her lawsuit.
Each had a lien placed on their home and are being charged about $4,000 in interest by Castle Credit Corp., according to the complaints. The Motykas said they intended to pay cash and never agreed to finance the system.
According to the complaints, Ciano claimed he was working with the "S.C. Environment Commission" to test county water. He also claimed Beaufort County's water system is the sixth worst in the country and the third worst in the state and the water caused cancer and gallstones. Ciano told all of the plaintiffs they would receive tax deductions for the systems and electric bill savings, which was not true, according to the filings.
All the plaintiffs claim Ciano either misled them, withheld information or both when they signed contracts. Gomez's lawsuit said Ciano folded over paperwork to conceal parts, the Motykas' lawsuit said they were rushed through signing, and Wargo's lawsuit said it was backdated two days after she signed it.
Wargo said she has spoken with dozens of people in the county who have also bought the water systems and are in similar situations. She is also talking with the S.C. Department of Consumer Affairs.