Phone Fury: Cellphone repair store leaves trail of broken phones

An ABC7 I-Team Investigation

ByJason Knowles and Ann Pistone WLS logo
Tuesday, September 19, 2017
Phone Fury: Cellphone repair store leaves trail of broken phones
The owner of a Chicago cellphone repair store says his customers are happy, but they tell a different story.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- The owner of a Chicago cellphone repair store says his customers are happy, but they tell a different story, alleging that he has caused damage and charged them more money than quoted.

Owner Hayssam Atrache also faces several city violations and thousands of dollars in fines. His store, Phone Fixed 4 Less, was renamed to "Gadget Repair" a few months ago.

The "phone fury" has been captured in dramatic, heated videos of disputes by customers who say they were ripped off by Atrache. Some of the videos include expletives and one shows Atrache dancing during the dispute.

The I-Team found several customers who say Atrache raised the price of repairs, after he had possession of their phones.

The Better Business Bureau gives Phone Fixed 4 Less an "F" rating for five complaints.

"They would not get their phone until they paid the amount which is alleged to be sometimes double than when they walked in," said Steve Bernas, of the Better Business Bureau.

The city's Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection (BACP) is investigating six fraud claims.

"They all allege the same thing, he estimates a low price and once the customer comes back to retrieve the phone he raise the price on them," said Jaime Martinez, of BACP.


Watch more of the disputes caught on camera

Some customers say when they get the "fixed" phone back, other parts didn't work.

"I told him, 'You broke the phone.' I said, 'You gotta fix it,'" said Christina Koronakos, who filed a BACP complaint. "He's like, 'Give me $65 more to fix it.' I said, 'I'm not going to give you any more money.'"

Some neighbors have protested the store. Some angry customers have called police.

Since 2016, there have been at least 55 calls to 911 of customers with disputes, according to 911 records obtained by the I-Team via a Freedom of Information Act request.

Henry Turcios called police and they got his phone back for him, but it was in pieces.

In cellphone video, Turcios says: "But I have been here for three hours at least and this is what I got now and I paid 60 bucks for labor and this is how he left it, that's it," showing his phone in parts and a receipt.

Turcios said he initially agreed to pay $120 but then there were delays and a price hike.

"I said, 'You know what, just give me back the phone,' and he said, 'No, I am not going to give back,'" Turcios said.

In another video from Peter Digioia, Atrache is telling him to get out of his store. Digioia is heard on the video saying, "You can't touch me, the police are on their way, he will not give me my phone back."

Digioia's wife, Donna Digioia, said she paid $175 cash to repair a cracked screen.

"The phone was repaired so my son gets in the car, we are not even a block away and he's like, 'Mom, the phone doesn't work,'" Donna Digioia said.

So she returned it to be fixed. "I said,'I think this guy is really taking me for a ride,'" she said.

After delays, Donna Digioia said police helped her get the phone -- for another $125.

However, the phone was broken.

Kasia O'Brien paid $125 to fix her cracked screen, but then says Atrache demanded more for another repair.

"I gave him the additional $125 and he gave me my phone and it was missing a home button!" O'Brien said.

She secretly recorded audio, begging the owner to give that missing button back.


Kasia O'Brien paid $125 to fix her cracked screen, but then says Atrache demanded more for another repair.

In the audio recording, she said Atrache said "Ok, maybe I can find the garbage tomorrow, OK." She replies, "You are going to find it in the garbage tomorrow?"

After Atrache did not respond to requests for comment via text and calls, the I-Team stopped by the store. Below was the exchange.

Jason Knowles: Do you raise the prices on people after you have their phones?

Atrache: Ok, thank you, ok

JK: Sir, I'm Jason Knowles from ABC7. I'm rolling, do you raise the prices on people?

Atrache: (Runs away)

JK: What do you have to say to your customers who say they were ripped off?

Atrache then tried to slip out the back door so the I-Team knocked on the back door asking, "Some of the customers who paid say the work is shoddy."

Days later, the city sent in undercover investigators. They say he upped the price on them.

"He fixed the cracked screen but all of the internal stuff must be broken because the internet doesn't work and you can't text," said Antonio Torres, of the BACP.

The BACP has now cited Atrache with 20 violations, most for "engaging in prohibited acts."

The I-Team visited a second time, but he ran again.

However, late last week, Atrache invited the I-Team back.

"I always do my best to do it perfect but I don't know, some customers," Hayssam Atrache said. "Ninety-five percent happy."

He said he never changes the prices and says the city did not cite him with 20 violations. Then, he declined further comment.

Atrache has a current business license and is allowed to be open. The city said if he fails to pay a maximum of $142,000 in fines, he could be shut down.

Most people interviewed by the I-Team paid with cash and some did not get receipts.

Experts say when getting your phone repaired, use a credit card and get an estimate of the work and the charges in writing, before you hand over your phone. Also, first check any phone repair store's record online or with the Better Business Bureau website.