Attention, Lima Shoppers! Maik Janisch isn't the only Craigslist scammer doing business in Lima. For 10 months (minus border hops to renew my visa), I worked for a firm in Miraflores (Lima) that regularly advertises scam jobs to US computer technicians using Craigslist. I signed a work "contract" to work for them (but I didn't know until many months later when I saw Living
in Peru articles that I had no authority to sign a contract, nor that the company had no authorization to contract with me). Anyway, I came to Peru in
September 2007. To support myself when I arrived, I had arranged a job for a small firm in San Isidro markets Maca-based medicinal supplements to European and US customers. I quickly learned that they were disreputable, as they wanted me to be copying parts of other websites and pieces from journals and medical reports into their web pages without attributing
sources, so they could boost sales of their product. I couldn't bring myself to do this. I worked for them for only a few weeks.
About the same time as I left that job, another company Peru Veloz S.R.L. in tax records (a.k.a. Peruveloz.Com) that I had found in my online search for work in Peru via Computrabajo sent me an email; there is still an ad there looking for new employees. In all the material given me, I learned they were a call center selling services to US homes and businesses and were looking
for a call dispatcher. I interviewed with George Otte, President, and owner of Peruveloz.Com (email: gotte at fixflash.com); his full name is Jorge Eduardo
Otte Polo, age 26, upstanding member of the Coral Gables, Doral, and Miami Beach Chambers of Commerce, and graduate of FSU. He's Peruvian, US Resident
Alien, RUC# 20512738428, who lives with his Mom in South Florida when he visits every month or so, but in his apartment in Miraflores with his teenage prostitutes when he's here. He applied for US citizenship, but INS
turned him down because he had some legal problems (violations of local ordinances -- loud parties, orgies, and a few DUIs); he still trying to get them to review his application.
Anyway, I learned in the interview with George that Peruveloz.Com is really a front end for an entity called FixFlash.Com, supposedly based in Miami at 169 E. Flagler St, Suite #1012; I subsequently learned that FixFlash.Com is really a brand held by a firm named Tech Support Services, Inc, masquerading as Geeks-OnSite.Com, Geeks-on-Site.Com, FixFlash.Com, TSS.cc,
tsscomputerhelp.com, tftnet.net and Tssmiami -- all of which are operated out of Miraflores, but are all one and the same held by one Jorge Otte. I agreed to work with FixFlash and signed what I was told was a contract to work at Peruveloz.Com. The document was never notarized, and George Otte's signature was a photocopy; he even gave me a copy of it once for bank
transfers. George Otte had convinced us all in person by his word and text on those papers that we were bound to never divulge the true location and
situation of FixFlash.Com. I didn't pay a lot of attention to it at the time, but subsequently learned that Peruveloz..Com had no authority to sign
a contract with any Peruvian tourist, and that as a tourist here, I had no authority to sign any contract in Peru. The contract is therefore quite likely null and void.
In any case, Peruveloz.Com is located in the upscale, heavily touristed Lima district of Miraflores. It is in a penthouse suite on the 14th Floor of Calle Bolivar #150, in Apt 1401 to be precise, in all of about 30 x 30 feet total in a high rise building directly behind the Atlantic City Casino, with a balcony overlooking Miraflores and the Pacific Ocean. Sounds luxurious,
but it really is not. Inside, there are three Peruvian technicians of dubious backgrounds, and now, thankfully, an American technician, who says he is certified, though I'm not sure of what. I'm not being critical of him,
its just that I don't really know anything about his certification. I know that the Peruvian technicians had no recognized certifications whatsoever, and none of these technicians receive any additional resources, training, materials, texts, nor can or do they attend attend training seminars. These technicians do all of the remote tune-ups on US home and business computers
using LogMeIn Free, sometimes 4-5 computers are connected at one time with any one technician.
The sales reps were about 7 folks in all, sitting in the same room as the technicians. The make up of the sales team are American, Canadian, and various Peruvians who grew up or lived in the US or Canada. They were a
bizarre group of travellers. There was an alcoholic who had been jailed in Lima for quite a while after bringing in a garbage bag of cellphones "for his friends", and often worked completely sauced; another who is still in
jail for shooting a Lima taxi driver after FixFlash work one Friday night; another employee was an on the job LSD freak; and so on. None of these folks have current Peruvian visas. They're just hanging out, some for years, and plan to pay the $1/day when they leave. The rest of the firm is made up of really very pretty, young Peruvian women who carry out various types of
administrative work. All staff work at this sweat shop from tiny cubicals, just enough room for a TV-sized monitor, mouse pad, and cup of coffee. I lucked out and got to move to my home office early in 2008 and I did all of my calling to techs via Skype, and logging into servers in Miraflores and Miami remotely. Only one of the sales reps has any computer certifications,
but previous employment references were never checked for anyone. All the sales staff speak good, fairly understandable, mostly Spanish accent-free
English, let's hire 'em!!.
So what's at FixFlash in Miami? Nothing, it's a shell. A technician of ours from Indianapolis suggested that as he was coming to Miami on vacation anyway, he might stop by and visit. We repeatedly reminded him that he was
on vacation and urged him not to come. He would have spent a long time trying to find us in vain. There is nothing related to FixFlash.Com at the Miami address except George Otte's uncle Don Cross' investment firm, where the firm has a single SQL server offering out its CRM tool where Lima sales reps are logged in via web access each day. Anything sent there by postal mail is faxed to the office in Lima by George's mom. Such a cool system isn't it. All the US resident clients
think that FixFlash is a local computer repair firm in their town -- I mean, they found FixFlash in the Yellow Pages, they must be local right? Not. All
the FixFlash technicians (about 180 of them) think FixFlash is a big national US firm with offices in Miami.
Even PC Magazine was proud to talk about the firm in their review of FixFlash a year or so ago; I wonder if they would be so proud to review the firm if they knew the truth about the company and its people.
As I'd been in the Accounting and Network Administration end of things, I've been privy to and given access to just about everything, the details of the people and the business. I know that the pay that techs get has been pretty miserable for many, though bearable for some depending on one's needs; things in Lima are on much worse scale than in the US. I'd been lucky in
that I had some external assets to help subsidize my income, but frankly, I just don't know how the rest of the staff can survive. The company maid makes $1.25 an hour, the computer techs make about $4 per hour, the
admin/sales staff see $2.70 per hour; the sales folks get some commissions. The sales manager makes $9.35 per hour. Of course, everyone gets paid in cash under the table. Some receive the cash in US bank accounts. The firm didn't issue tax documents to us, we were never informed that it was illegal for us to work in Peru. The whole thing was/is just illegal. Its a big deal/steal for George Otte. He didn't declare our presence to anyone, not even Peruvian agencies (according to online public info searches here, Peruveloz has no employees or contractors). Attempts to send inspectors to his offices have failed thus far, as George pays them off at the entrance to the building. He has paid off the Sunat and the Ministry of Labor inspectors thus far. He is grossing far more than a million annually from his computer repair brands , but he hasn't declared any staff to Peru's government, IRS, or Florida Dept of Revenue, any US contractors to their State's government tax bureaus, nor registered in any US state except Florida, according to accounting documents, despite
rapidly increasing sales and new Craigslist ads coming out in a bunch of new cities.
FixFlash today serves these US metro locations: Albuquerque, Atlanta, Augusta, Austin, Babylon-Bay Shore, San Francisco Bay Area, Boise, Belton/Grandview, Boston, Broken Arrow, Charlotte, Chicago, Cincinnati,
Clearwater/St Pete, Cleveland, Coeur DAlene, Colorado Springs, Columbus, Dallas, Denver, Detroit, Dupage County, Fayetteville, Ft Worth, Herndon, Houston, Hudson Valley, Independence, Indianapolis, Jacksonville, Johnson
County, Kansas City, Las Vegas, Lewisville, Little Rock, Manassas, Mesquite, Miami, Middlesex Cty, Minneapolis, Nashville, Oklahoma city, Omaha, Orange County, Orlando,
Philadelphia, Phoenix, Pittsburgh, Provo, Reno, Richmond, Sacramento, Salem, Salt Lake City, San Antonio, San Diego, South King County, Sparks, Spokane,
Tampa, Thousand Oaks/Simi Valley, Tucson, Tulsa, Ventura County, West Palm Beach, Wichita, Wilmington, Winston/ Salem, and Worcester.
As for field technicians, I was an HR recruiter for a while and I know how that works too. All the job opportunities are advertised on Craigslist. The
ad titles are changed so that Craigslist doesn't catch on that the firm is misusing that firm's website for nefarious reason. FixFlash/Peruveloz never
calls job references to check on a technician's status at any of their previous employers. They are
looking for people with a lot of technical PC experience at one location and not those who floated around from job to job. They do like folks who claim to have certifications, like A+, Microsoft, etc, but no one here quite knows what those really are. The FixFlash president, George Otte, is supposed to be a Microsoft Certified Professional and a Microsoft Certified Systems
Engineer according to his latest CV, but I would really question this, given his responses to many situations. Without knowing anything about the FixFlash technicians, some could be just looking for an opportunity to get
inside client computers to gather personal information, but this FixFlash firm doesn't check on anyone's references nor does personal background checking on anyone at all. I'm sure that the firm's 11,000 US clients would love to know that.
Functionally working as all of the Accounts Payable department for many months, I had some kind of relationship with almost all of the US field
technicians -- many of techs spoke with me on the phone/Skype. The harddest part of my job was lying to them and clients about our location/situation.
When asked how the weather was in Miami, we were told to say, beautiful! I had also had to take monies from technicians who showed up late, no showed, or messed up on the job. Many times we just refused to pay the technician, even though he/she had been on the job for 12 hours or 3 days! It wasn't because there was something in the contract that allowed FixFlash to do it,
but George really didn't want to paying the technicians unless they were simply perfect. There were a bunch of technicians who said they would be suing the company for these actions, but how do you sue a non-existent
company? If you're in Houston, how do you get $200 from a company in Miami, who's not even in Miami to begin with? It was done, simply because George Otte could get away with it. There is nothing on the web, anywhere linking Peruveloz to FixFlash or Tech Support Services, Inc, and there is nothing linking George Otte to Peru Veloz or Peruveloz, except in Peruvian tax databases.
Management at Peruveloz royally sucks; every tiny, little speck is magnified; the firm is thoroughly micromanaged. The days are full of crap
about what is going wrong, rather than what is going right. Management spends 80% of its time clamping down staff actions that impact 1% of gross rather than spending time making staff feel good about themselves and their jobs despite no recognition and thoroughly horrible pay. Morale is poor, everyone is on edge, many are worried, whenever management is in country.
Employment is very much a revolving door. I never bothered to set up folders for most staff in my Outlook because they were constantly starting and then quitting. The same is true for onsite technicians; many hang on for a month or so and then have a deduction levied
on them or some other pay dispute, and they go by the wayside.
Along with the micromanagement, comes complete overbearance. The staff are independent contractors, not employees. They are not on salary, and do not expect to get called at 10pm at night to be asked about having paid someone an extra $12.50 because we rounded differently or asked less than an hour from taking vacation to upload a file to JetPay in the US to run the
company's billing. George called me and other staff on our cellphones at all hours. He acted this way to all of our technicians and all of our clients, completely unavailable.
Technicians aren't fired or terminated. All of the "contracts" are still valid, supposedly to scare them into not creating another FixFlash type organization to compete against them. When someone is eliminated, they are simply removed from the directory of onsite technicians; their record then calls them inactive techs and suddenly they don't get sent any of our jobs. There is no explanation to the technician, letter of thanks or good riddens, they are just phased out! No letters go out to techs at all ever, in fact.
How do you send a letter to anyone from Peru anyway? Regular mail from here is horrendously slow, expensive, and downright unreliable. George did bring a box of client letters to go out around Xmas went he went to Miami for the holidays. Wouldn't it have been nice if he had thought of his US "staff" too?
They had me doing the work of two full-time workers and refused to add additional workers. In my last week of work during the summer, George refused to pay me back pay owed for time over forty hours for the last four
months some weeks had I worked more than 100 hours. George runs the firm using a bunch of credit cards and a Florida bank, Gibraltar Private Bank & Trust, where George once worked full-time as their tech support guy. We all worked really hard, but with so very little to show for it, enough became enough for me. A few technicians got caught in this dilemma, as they hadn't
received paychecks. Those expecting PayPal were fresh out of luck. George had maxed out his 2nd Amex card in 2 months and though he had funds in his personal checking account, he expressly forbade me from writing checks out
of it, so anyone expecting PayPal payments in my last week was fresh out of luck. When the whole pay dilemma hit the fan, he balked, and I refused to work until he paid me. It was then suggested that I resign, and so I did.
There are some techs who hadn't seen a check because Checkfree didn't send it or got it lost in the mail. It happens every month to some, and I did my best to figure it out, but some techs were still always left hanging and may not end up getting checks until the end of next week, month. I heard from a tech yesterday that August paychecks had not yet been paid. Still the company is growing by 8-12 technicians weekly now, as the firm tries to avoid having to use Onforce.Com technicians for its jobs -- kind of an Ebay for computer tech jobs in the US. Those techs arrive at your house or business in the US and say they work for FixFlash. Of course, they're local, so FixFlash is local, yes? Not.