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Virginia sues White House crasher over wine tours

Associated Press Published: April 23, 2012
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RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Virginia's attorney general went after White House party crasher Tareq Salahi for a second time on Monday, this time claiming Salahi cheated customers who purchased wine tours from his companies in northern Virginia.

Ken Cuccinelli filed the lawsuit in Fauquier County Circuit Court. It comes two months after the attorney general reached a settlement with Salahi and his Journey for the Cure Foundation over accusations the nonprofit made false statements, submitted inaccurate financial statements and solicited donations without being registered with the state.

Salahi and his wife, Michaele, gained notoriety in 2009 when they crashed a White House state dinner and were able to meet President Barack Obama.

The lawsuit filed Monday accuses Salahi and his Virginia Wine Tourism Inc. and Celebration Entertainment Productions LLC of not delivering tours as promised, not providing refunds for tours they canceled and misrepresenting reputable businesses as "official partners."

An attorney who represented Salahi in the past did not immediately return messages seeking comment.

Cuccinelli's office said Salahi is the sole officer, director and presumed sole owner of Virginia Wine Tourism and the presumed sole member and manager of Celebration Entertainment Productions.

The companies offer tours of wineries through the web site VirginiaWineTour.com that can range from $200 to $1,350 per day and more for weeklong charters.

Cuccinelli accuses Salahi and his companies of violating the Virginia Consumer Protection Act, which prohibits the deception of consumers. He said in a statement that the lawsuit was filed based on complaints filed with the Virginia Office of Consumer Affairs and the Better Business Bureau and an investigation by his office.

Some customers reported their tours were cancelled the morning they were scheduled to begin due to a "vehicle malfunction," and that some never heard from the company again. Some complained they were not taken to the wineries they were promised or that the mode of transportation wasn't what was advertised. Others complained that refunds, even those promised in writing, were never delivered.

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