(WJLA) - Tareq Salahi is known for crashing state dinners, reality television, and an attempt at running for governor. But it's his wine tour business that prompted a frustrated call to 7 On Your Side.
Eddie Engles thought he was buying the perfect birthday present for his partner Michael, but their tour of three Virginia wineries ended with a costly surprise.
"I thought I was paying, in fact they communicated I was paying an all inclusive fee for the tour," explained Engles.
He selected a $1500 tour package from Salahi's website, VirginiaWineTour.com.
In emails, the company told Engles, "Our rates are all inclusive planning and event services."
They asked him to pay by check, but also requested a credit card, saying it "guaranteed this reservation."
In another email referencing the credit card, "We only use that in case of illness on the bus, time, incidentals and any change orders."
Then Salahi's company used Engles credit card to book the mini-bus for another $723. Engles says it was not clear that he'd be paying extra for the bus.
"Oh no, no. In our contract that is very, very clear, very clear," explained Salahi. "In black and white. It was written by my attorneys."
While it does have fine print, 7 On Your Side found that nowhere in the transportation reservation and invoice does it clearly state the transportation's fee. ABC7 also found 22 other complaints online, and the Better Business Bureau gives them an "F".
Last year, Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli sued Salahi and the company alleging questionable business practices. Not admitting fault, this summer the company settled, paying $5,200 to eight consumers.
"These individuals typically fronted money for the tour on behalf of a group of people, so at the time of the settlement, the restitution covered refunds for wine tours purchased for or on behalf of as many as 100 individuals," says Brian Gottstein of the Office of the Attorney General of Virginia.
Salahi says this most recent complaint is politically motiviated.
"We do our job. Our staff and our interns do their job and yet they want their money back," said Salahi. "That's abuse. Shame on Cuccinelli and shame on this friend of Cuccinelli."
Engles says they've never supported Cuccinelli and can't even vote in Virginia. He's contesting the credit card charge.