State getting Geeks customers back their gear

kjahner@newsobserver.comJuly 1, 2014 

Customers’ computer equipment was recovered from multiple Raleigh Geeks locations. The state is suing the chain.

DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE

— As the North Carolina Department of Justice builds its civil case against Raleigh Geeks, a computer repair chain with a location in Cleveland, it has recovered 133 electronic items from stores in an effort to return them to customers.

The state has also added Mark Edward White as a defendant. He joins Timothy J. Staie Jr., Garrett J. Foster and Steven A. Leo. Despite filing the initial case in May, the department has been unable to serve Staie or Lao. Only Foster has shown up in court.

The department has already secured an injunction forcing the four-store chain to return customer property and cease doing business until the case is over. Landlords helped the state retrieve the parts. Parts were not recovered directly from the already cleared-out Cleveland location; however, some appear to have come from the shop off N.C. 42. near I-40.

The lawsuit alleges that the company violated the Unfair and Deceptive Trade Practices Act. The suit stems from 24 complaints filed with the Justice Department. Customers claim to have been given the runaround for weeks, only to have still-broken, more-broken or wrong computers, tablets or phones returned or not returned at all. The store, which charged for repair work in full up front, promised a refund if a customer was not satisfied; however, those refunds were routinely denied.

The Better Business Bureau gives Raleigh Geeks an F rating with dozens of other complaints to which the store has not responded.

Matt Liles, the department attorney on the case, said most of the items had receipts or other customer information attached. Dozens, however, did not. The parts range from laptops and televisions to phones and computers.

He said those who have already filed a complaint with the Justice Department does not need to act. The department will contact those whose parts were recovered and can be linked to a customer. But Liles added that anyone who has yet to file a complaint against Raleigh Geeks should do so, preferably with model and serial numbers for their products.

“It’s really a lesson for why people should write down their serial numbers for big purchases like this,” Liles said.

Staie and Edwards have been tied to North Myrtle Beach shops that had similar problems with customers and the Better Business Bureau. White also faced 18 counts of felony conversion when customers accused him of keeping their computers after closing Laptop Pros in Smithfield in 2010. Those charges were later dismissed after property was recovered.

Staie and Edwards are listed as owners of the business, according to the BBB.

Foster claimed in court that he is innocent. He also claims the other defendants used his name during instances – cited by the lawsuit – in which customers said he mistreated them, Liles said.

The lawsuit states that customers were given incorrect names of employees. Allegedly, employees would give a fake name to a customer, who on later visits was told that no one by that name worked there. Such patterns has made assigning ownership of the company difficult for the government. The Secretary of State’s website does not list Raleigh Geeks. Fuquay Protech Computers LLC filed a form in Wake County stating its intent to operate as Raleigh Geeks. Staie is listed as a manager.

Attempts to reach the accused were unsuccessful.

According to records, including business and voter records, White, Staie and Foster have shared a common address in Lillington, either currently or within the past few years.

Jahner: 919-829-4822; Twitter: @garnercleveland

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