CYPRESS, Texas - A simple consumer complaint about a local computer repair company has sparked an investigation spanning two states. Local 2 consumer expert Amy Davis did some digging to get answers you need to know before your personal information lands in the wrong hands.
Keith Kulhanek has been sharing his wife's laptop since last November. That's when a technician from Texas PC Geeks came to his home to repair his. The tech told Kulhanek he would have to take his laptop back to the Texas PC Geeks shop in Cypress. Kulhanek never saw his computer again.
"They just kept saying, ‘Oh well, it's this, it's that, it's the bezel. We can repair that,'" Kulhanek told Davis of his conversations with the owner of the business.
Finally, the owner said he tried to mail the repaired computer back, but Kulhanek never received it.
"Conveniently the computer got lost," he said.
That story is what sent Local 2 Investigates looking for answers. Davis stopped by Texas PC Geeks unannounced after the owner didn't return several phone calls over several weeks.
"We want to talk to you about the computer you took from Keith," Davis said to owner Jake Vanderbrown as he walked away. "You've got a ton of complaints against you. Can you talk to us about it?"
"No," he said, as he ducked into his office on Huffmeister.
Texas PC Geeks has an "F" with the Houston Better Business Bureau and eight complaints in the last year, including customers who said Vanderbrown has kept their computers for months and sold them what they believe was bootlegged software.
Vanderbrown wouldn't talk with Local 2, but six computer techs who used to work for Vanderbrown thought it was important they speak up.
"You do believe that he's putting pirated software on people's computers?" Davis asked the group.
"He is," answered Logan Hayes, who said he worked at Texas PC Geeks Kingwood location before Vanderbrown closed it earlier this year.
"How do you know?" Davis asked.
"I've seen him download it off the Internet and it is an illegal unlicensed copy," said Hayes. "And then he would put it on a flash drive and say, ‘Go put this on this on the computer.'"
By email, Vanderbrown told Davis four of the former techs who spoke with her took his customer database and started their own business, competing against him. He disputes all of their claims.
"All of these people are not making up stuff," said Jamal Stenson, another former PC Geeks technician. "You have leftover damage in your past and it's catching up to you."
What's catching up to Vanderbrown now is his criminal history. Local 2 Investigates discovered he was born Ryan Lloyd Brown. He pleaded guilty to breach of computer security in Montgomery County in 2001, served 10 days in the Harris County jail on drug charges in 2002 and in 2005, he was sentenced to 52 months in prison in Oregon for four counts of felony identity theft, bigamy and two counts of possessing a stolen vehicle.
While he was locked up in Oregon, Brown legally changed his name to Jacovy Ryan Vanderbrown. He walked out in 2008 and headed to Texas with his new name and a clean record.
"He told me he had been in business for 20 years, so I kind of trusted him with his word," said former tech, David Ortez
Right on the Texas PC Geeks website it boasts of the company's "20-year history."
"The math doesn't add up," Davis said to Ortez.
"No, not at all," Ortez said. "I don't know what kind of business he was running, but it definitely wasn't that one."
Houston police, who are investigating Vanderbrown, told Local 2 his name change appears to be legal. They have now made certain his criminal history is linked to his new name.
"He is good. I give him that. He is good," said Minh Le, who used to work for Vanderbrown.
Local 2 is aware of four customers who said their computers were never returned from Vanderbrown. HPD's investigation is ongoing.
If you have a complaint about property you can't get back from Texas PC Geeks, contact them and the Houston Better Business Bureau.
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