Used tech scheme owner could face $42 million fine
The mastermind earned millions lying to people about their used phones & laptops, according to the FTC.
If Vadim Kruchinin comes back to the United States, he could end up with handcuffs—and an enormous bill.
The Federal Trade Commission has proposed a $42 million fine against Kruchinin, also known as David Kruchin, for allegedly ripping off thousands of people through his business in Sparks, Nevada.
Customers reported that Kruchinin’s business, Laptop and Desktop Repair, advertised top dollar for used phones, tablets and laptops, and gave people price quotes over the Internet on sites like cashforiphones.com, cashforlaptops.com, and ecyclebest.com.
Image of $127 phone price quote from a complaint to the Nevada Bureau of Consumer Protection. Image credit: Nevada Attorney General’s Office
However, when they sent their tech items in, customers said they received just a small fraction of the promised price. When they tried to get their devices back as promised in the terms and conditions, they could not get through or were told the phone was “already processed.”
Actual offer received from Laptop & Desktop Repair when phone with $127 quote was sent in, according to complaint to the Nevada Bureau of Consumer Protection. Image credit: Nevada Attorney General’s Office
“They quoted me $127 for my device, and then (after receiving my device, with no scratches, chips, and in full working condition), changed their offer to $22,” a customer from New York wrote in her complaint to Nevada’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “They have deceptive business practices and need to be held accountable.”
The same customer reported the company vandalized her phone when she refused the $22 offer. Image credit: Nevada Attorney General’s Office
More than 2600 people filed complaints with the Better Business Bureau, and the Nevada Attorney General’s Office stepped in to investigate.
But the scheme continued until September 29, 2016, when the Federal Trade Commission sent agents in to close the place down.
Kruchinin was ordered to freeze his assets, but instead bought gold bars and left the country for China in October, court documents said.
Now the FTC has filed for a motion for default judgment against him.
The documents said Kruchinin earned more than $42 million through his scheme between 2011 and 2016, and should be fined the same amount to pay back customers and other costs.
A judge will decide if Kruchinin should indeed pay.
A customer reported that Laptop & Desktop Repair quoted him $113 but sent him a check for $18. Image credit: Complaintsboard.com
Some customers see the proposed fine as good news.
“I personally don’t think any amount will make how he scammed people better,” said Tiffany Narveson of Oregon, who sent in an almost new phone for a quote of $433, but received a check—that bounced—for less than $50.
“But at least there is some kind of punishment to the crime he committed and how he took advantage of innocent people who had faith in what his company said,” she added.
Meanwhile, the receiver in charge of Kruchinin’s business is selling off his home and warehouse in the Reno area.
More than a thousand customers could get their phones back as a result of the deal.
Google Maps image of the Laptop & Desktop Repair warehouse in Sparks, Nevada. Image credit: Google Maps
The receiver, Hays Financial Consulting out of Atlanta, Georgia, found a buyer for the Laptop and Desktop Repair warehouse on Coney Island Drive in Sparks.
AN Jadhavji Investments in Dallas, Texas, will buy the warehouse for $1,400,000, court documents showed.
Pulse Electronic Recycling in Dallas, Texas, will buy the devices still inside for $200,000.
The two companies are connected.
“Turnkey. We’ll just hand them a key and they take everything as is,” said Henry Sewell, counsel for the receiver, Hays Financial Consulting. “All dings and dents and everything else. Makes it a lot easier.”
Google Maps image of the front of the Laptop & Desktop Repair warehouse in Sparks, Nevada. Image credit: Google Maps
Pulse would be required to contact the original owners of hundreds of phones still inside the warehouse according to the real estate sales contract.
The company would either offer to buy or return the phones and would have to follow consumer laws and industry standards in the process, the contract said.
“It’s the best interest of the consumer that we try to return the devices that had not been processed yet and give them a chance to get some recovery out of it,” said Greg Hays of Hays Financial Consulting.
“We have 1300 consumers who will get their items back or a chance to sell their items through the process,” Sewell told Archer News.
The warehouse purchase would help pay off some of Laptop and Desktop Repairs’ debts, with about $400,000 left after, according to court documents.
Inside the Laptop & Desktop Repair warehouse. Image credit: Hays Financial Consulting
About ten miles from the warehouse where he made his millions, Kruchinin owned a modest home in a residential neighborhood.
Before he left the country, he transferred his home on Vista Ridge Way to the woman who lived with him, Valeria Campos Fuentes, the mother of his child—in violation of the court order, documents said.
Google Maps image of Vadim Kruchinin’s home in Reno, Nevada. Image credit: Google Maps
Campos Fuentes agreed to give the house back, and now the receiver will sell it, earning an estimated $110,000 to $140,000 on the sale.
She said she is no longer in contact with Kruchinin and can’t make the mortgage payments on the 1700-square-foot house, according to documents.
“Wow, what a coward. Only still thinking of himself and not his own family or those he scammed,” Narveson told Archer News.
“No, he [should] be a man and stay to fix his own mess, instead of being a coward and saying by actions, ‘I am dumping my mess on you. Have fun,’” Narveson added.
Google Maps image of Kruchinin’s house from above. Image credit: Google Maps
Thirteen hundred customers should get their phones back—or some money for their used tech—through the warehouse sale to Pulse.
But those are people who sent their devices in right before Laptop and Desktop Repair shut down, before the company had time to process them and sell them off.
People who sent their phones in before that may have a harder time getting some kind of reimbursement.
Will they get any money from the sale of the house and warehouse? Archer News asked Hays and Sewell.
It depends on a number of factors.
“The most we can say is that we’ve got to focus on getting the sales closed and then once we get the sales closed, we’ll consult with the FTC and the court as to what happens next,” said Sewell.
They will create a plan to distribute the money—if there is any left over—and a judge will have to give the final approval.
“Once we have the plan of distribution, we’ll post it on our website at that point and probably have a claims process to deal with any claims from consumers and creditors,” said Hays.
Boxes of phones inside the Laptop & Desktop Repair warehouse. Image credit: Hays Financial Consulting
If you were a Laptop and Desktop Repair customer—or a customer of one of its many sub-companies—you’ll want to make sure you have gotten your complaint on the record.
For example, one of the requirements of the warehouse sale is that Pulse Electronic Recycling has to contact customers whose phones are still inside the warehouse and offer you money or your phone back.
But if your contact info has changed, it might be hard for you to get anything at all.
Some customers hope Kruchinin will return to the U.S. and pay up.
“It is just sad that he took off and still doesn’t want to answer for the crimes he committed or answer to those he took advantage of,” Narveson said.
Main image credit: Archer News