FTC charges operators of Sparks business closed after raid

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SPARKS, Nev. (KOLO) - A Sparks business is closed after a raid.

Cash for Laptops, also known as Laptop and Desktop Repair LLC, had been the focus of numerous complaints about its business practices since at least 2014, according to Sparks Police, who were involved in the raid September 29, 2016.

The FTC has charged the business and its owner, Vadim Olegovich Kruchinin, with deceiving consumers with high-dollar offers to buy back their electronics, only to give consumers far less after they sent their devices to the company.

A federal court has issued an order temporarily stopping the defendants’ practices and freezing its assets.

“This is a classic case of bait-and-switch updated for the 21st century,” said Jessica Rich, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “The defendants in this case lure consumers with false promises of generous payments, then hold consumers hostage once they have mailed their devices to the company.”

The complaint alleges that the defendants, which have done business under a variety of names including cashforiphones.com, cashforlaptops.com, ecyclebest.com, smartphonetraders.com and sell-your-cell.com, generated buyback quotes for consumers who visited their websites and provided some basic information about the types and conditions of the electronic device they wanted to sell.

The FTC says the company told consumers they could expect to receive the exact amounts of the quotes. After consumers sent in their devices to the defendants, however, the defendants dropped their offer prices to as little as three to ten percent of the original quotes.

According to the complaint, consumers usually had three or five days to accept or reject the new lower offers. The complaint alleges that when consumers would attempt to call the defendants’ purchasing department to ask for their devices back, they would be met with long hold times, disconnected calls and an office that was frequently closed on the weekends – even though those days counted against the consumers’ time limits to reject the lower quotes.

When consumers managed to get in touch with the defendants, the complaint alleges they were often told that their devices had already been processed. If consumers threatened to complain to the FTC or other agencies, they would get marginally higher offers still far below what defendants promised, according to the complaint. The complaint notes that thousands of consumers have complained to the FTC and other consumer protection agencies about the defendants’ practices.

The FTC is crediting Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt for helping with the investigation, as well as Reno and Sparks Police and the Northern Nevada Better Business Bureau.

One caller, an employee at the business, told KOLO 8 News Now she thinks about 50 people are now out of work and don't know when they will get paid.

A sign on the door says the location and its contents are under the protection of United States District Court. A receiver, Hays Financial Consulting, has been named. When asked for information, the receiver replied, "We are very busy with the business operations right now and determining next steps. Employees were sent home in the interim. Will provide more information soon and the FTC will release a statement in near future."

The Better Business Bureau gives the business an F, with 2580 complaints filed against it.

The business claimed to buy consumers’ used smartphones, tablets and other devices.