MANATEE -- A Utah architectural firm has filed suit against Manatee County fixed-base operator Dolphin Aviation over a jet sold to it after the firm claims it was damaged in Japan's 2011 tsunami.
In a July Manatee County Civil Court filing, Sandstrom Architecture of Orem, Utah, accuses Dolphin and its parent company, Icarus Inc., of conspiracy, fraud and deceptive trade practices related to its 2012 purchase of a Cessna Citation 501 from a Dolphin tenant. The court filing alleges personnel working for multiple companies owned or controlled by Dolphin owner Ron Ciaravella convinced Sandstrom principal architect Stephen Sandstrom to buy the luxury jet, even though they knew it sustained damaged in its hangar from tsunami flood waters.
The filing is the second submitted to the court concerning the sale. Sandstrom filed suit against several other companies and individuals in April 2013.
According to the newest filing, Sandstrom first learned that the Citation was available for purchase in August 2012 when he brought an aircraft he owned at the time to Dolphin for emergency repairs. International Aviation Marketing, a tenant at the Dolphin's terminal and repair facility, is identified as the seller. Dolphin is based at the Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport.
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The filing details a series of dealings with International in which Sandstrom listed his plane for sale with the company, then purchased the Citation. In the narrative, Sandstrom experiences numerous mechanical problems with the Citation after taking delivery of the aircraft in February 2013. He eventually ceases flying the plane after deeming it "too dangerous to fly."
The suit claims the aircraft was damaged at Japan's Sendai Airport, then was disassembled and shipped to SRQ by First Bombadier Leasing, a Delaware company connected to Ciaravella. In the document, Ciaravella is also identified as International's owner.
Sandstrom tried to return the aircraft for a refund, "but Ciaravella through Bombadier and Icarus has refused," the narrative reads.
Contacted about the suit, Ciaravella said he is confident it will be dismissed. He denied having an ownership stake in International, saying that the company is only a tenant at his company's SRQ facility. Florida corporate filings show CEO James Perkins heads International. Perkins is also named as a defendant in the 2013 suit.
Ciaravella said the aircraft received a Federal Aviation Administration certificate of airworthiness before being sold.
"They're just allegations, magically and skillfully written for a great story," he said.
FAA documents show that the circa-1977 Citation was certified in January 2013.
Sandstrom's attorney, Bradford Kimbro with Tampa law firm Holland & Knight, did not immediately respond to a request to comment on the suit.
Also named as defendants in the two suits are Dolphin lessee West Coast Aviation Services, two sales executives with International and Sarasota cardiologist Jeffrey Sack, who the suit claims withheld details about the Citation's condition and past.
Kimbro has filed a motion with the court to consolidate the new suit with the one filed in 2013. Both suits seek to recover unspecified monetary damages and attorney fees.
Matt M. Johnson, Herald business reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7027 or on Twitter @MattAtBradenton.