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Ventura County News Roundup

COUNTYWIDE : Complaint Filed in Water-Filter Sales

January 23, 1991|MACK REED

State and Ventura County prosecutors filed a civil complaint Tuesday in Superior Court, alleging that a Burbank water-filter company used scare tactics to sell expensive treatment systems to 2,000 people statewide.

During high-pressure sales pitches lasting up to three hours, the now-defunct Northland Environmental Inc. promised that its systems could remove carcinogenic chemicals and the AIDS virus from tap water, said Deputy Dist. Atty. Gregory W. Brose. But the systems only softened the water by removing minerals, Brose said.

Brose said Northland sales staff promised to give away cars, videocassette recorders and color TVs to potential customers who attended sales presentations at an office on Sperry Avenue in Ventura.

Instead, attendees received documents advertised as $5,000 municipal bonds which actually were bonds issued by a defunct Florida company that took 30 years to mature and were worth $40 each, Brose said.

Northland's sales staff then made generalizations about tap water impurity that were true only in a handful of cases, according to the civil complaint. The sales staff persuaded customers to buy $7,000 water-treatment systems on 10-year installment plans charging 15% annual interest rates that eventually cost the customers up to $13,000 each for the system, Brose said.

While Northland's Ventura office was open only for a few months in 1987, the company used these tactics to sell the treatment systems throughout California under the name Northland Purewater during 1987 and 1988, Brose said.

Northland sold its sales contracts to Chrysler First Financial Services Corp. of California, which failed to offer customers their right under law to withdraw from the installment plans within 72 hours of signing them, Brose said.

The complaint asks the court to impose $500,000 civil penalties against Northland and two of its employees, Richard Henley and Richard Talbert. It also asks for $500,000 in civil penalties against Chrysler First.

Talbert and Henley could not be reached for comment. Chrysler First attorney Pierce T. Selwood declined to comment.

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