Man Accused Of Gutting Computers, Returning Them To Best Buy So You Can Buy Them

Have you purchased a computer from Best Buy, only to find that it had no internal parts? No hard drive. No video card. No motherboard? If so, you (allegedly) have Joseph Denice of Silver Spring, MD to thank for your gutted PC. His hobby is buying computers from Best Buy, removing the parts, and then returning the empty shell. Best Buy’s employees would then put the computer husks back on store shelves where they would be repurchased by unwitting consumers such as… you.

MSNBC says that when the hapless customers returned the “defective” computers, Best Buy shrugged and sent them back to the manufacturer. Meanwhile, Denice was selling the parts over the internet. It’s estimated that over $100,000 worth of merchandise was lost in this scam.

We suppose this means that not only do you have to check to make sure the stuff you’re buying is inside the box when you’re shopping at Best Buy, you have to make sure the parts are inside the computer. Fun!

Man Accused Of Gutting, Returning Computers [MSNBC] (Thanks, Jeffrey!)
(Photo: tengaport )


Edit Your Comment

  1. LunarLoki says:

    Wow. I must say that is a brillaint scam. He went overboard and got caught, a foolish man.

  2. B says:

    When I returned a PS3 to Best Buy, they took it into the back room and made sure it was working before they would refund my money. Wouldn’t they do the same thing to the PCs?

  3. Geekybiker says:

    wouldn’t they notice one person buying and returning that many items? You’d think they’d have a system in place to flag unusual return patterns.

  4. chersolly says:

    They probably just wanted an excuse to play.

  5. crazydavythe1st says:

    One day a revolutionary criminal will come along and figure out when to call it quits. They would do this 1, 2, maybe even 10 times and then they would say “now, I’ll stop so they don’t catch me”. $100,000 worth? please….

  6. B says:

    @Geekybiker: If he went to different stores and paid in cash, it would be difficult to track.

  7. danman81 says:

    hehehe. FAIL.

  8. dakotad555 says:

    Disappointing that there is no customer to blame in this story. So I’ll blame all of those who purchase computers from Best Buy. You should know better by now.

    NewEgg or TigerDirect FTW

  9. doctor_cos wants you to remain calm says:

    @B: You’re associating ‘intelligence’ with BB. There’s your mistake.

  10. m4ximusprim3 says:

    @B: At about $500 worth of parts per computer (guess, but probably OK accurate), he’s done about 200 computers. Say his area has 10 best buys- you don’t think they’d notice the same guy returning 20 computers for no apparent reason? At least enough to check?

    something seems fishy to me. Maybe he had a “friend” in the return department who looked the other way.

  11. FLConsumer says:

    How does “six counts” of felony theft = $100,000? I’m betting the $ value is bogus. The charges make me think he tried to do this six times, which still is quite excessive.

    At least he returned the shell of the computer rather than just filling the box with bathroom tiles like the WorstBuy employees do.

  12. SOhp101 says:

    @B: Only problem is that Best Buy (like many other stores) will only issue a corporate check for amounts over a specified dollar amount. They take your info so you can get your check in the mail.

  13. amggal says:

    Wouldn’t someone notice the towers were way lighter than normal? HD and power supplies are like bricks.

  14. levenhopper says:

    Did he replace the weight with something? Because with all of the weight missing from the parts, I know I’d be able to tell the difference in weight between one with the “guts”, and one without them.

  15. theblackdog says:

    @B: You’re right, unfortunately the dunderhead in this article used his credit card every time.

    Maybe he took a page from Consumerist and screamed Chargeback! to get them to bend.

  16. u1itn0w2day says:

    I heard the office supply stores suffer the same deal ALOT especially with stuff like ink cartridges and misc accessories.A local Office Depot manager told me it got so bad she has every return opened and checked.Alot of ‘customers’ were taking out the new and replacing it with the old.Heard other retailers had similar troubles.

    One last note,Best Buy reciepts suck-they like start fading with in a week.

  17. XTC46 says:

    @B: no, I worked for CompUSA and they didnt. Or the guy could have just taped the box back shut. This kind of crap happens all the time. Another big scam is buying high end video cards, then shoving a crappy one in the box and closing it. Most employees have no clue what they should be expecting so they dont know any better.

  18. Pro-Pain says:

    After how Best Buy got me, all I have to say is GOOD. Only an idiot employee wouldn’t check a return such as a computer anyway. Once again, Best Buy FAIL on all levels…

  19. midwestkel says:


  20. TPIRman says:

    @crazydavythe1st: Presumably, such criminals already exist. Why don’t we hear about them? Because they don’t get caught.

  21. Lambasted says:

    Silver Spring is in my neck of the woods (DC metro area) and we do have Best Buys out the ying-yang around here so he definitely had plenty to target.

    But what I don’t get is after the first time a Best Buy discovered a gutted computer why didn’t the entire chain go on alert to be on the lookout for this practice. I mean they don’t get that many computer returns in a day (or do they) that they couldn’t take the time to test each one before issuing refunds.

    I know it would be too time consuming to test all products across the board. But when a company has a definite indicator on a certain product that it has been tampered with, the company needs to take action to preclude it from happening again.

    Didn’t Best Buy learn any lessons from J&J’s quick action in Tylenol tampering scare? Where there is one bad apple there are likely several more; decisive proactive action is key to containment. Instead, Best Buy’s security and quality control looks like a bunch of bumbling fools.

  22. dorianh49 says:

    @dakotad555: TigerDirect, seriously? Maybe they’ve been improving, but they’ve still got a long way to go to be anywhere NEAR Newegg, or MWave, or ZipZoomFly, or Directron:

    [] (TigerDirect’s ResellerRatings page)

    The last time I purchased from TigerDirect, around 5 or 6 years ago, they scammed me on rebate. I’m not the only one. Many I know still have a bitter taste from their rebate scams.

  23. Part-Time-Viking says:

    How do you people somehow turn this into another Best Buy Bash-fest? Wait, this is the Consumerist, even if it’s a positive story about Best Buy you’ll bash the hell out of the company.

    Anyways, it is puzzling how he got away with this so many times. I’m wondering what he told the customer service representatives when he was trying to return the computers.

  24. I’m confused. So Best Buy was restocking the returned computers to their shelves — or were they being returned to the manufacturers?

  25. heavylee-again says:

    I think there is more to the story than we’re being told. Many of the above posters pointed out correctly that a flag should have been thrown on this play much earlier. The computers were much lighter in weight; the same person was buying and returning multiple similar items (even if he had paid cash, the computer department salespeople probably would have recognized him). When returning anything, even if cash was used, don’t they ask for a name/address for the return paperwork?

    The idea was decent, the execution was faulty.

  26. Northpike says:

    I guess i’m neive (sp?) and dumb.. but if he GUTTED some of these, returning ONLY the SHELL, wouldn’t it be obvious.. seeing how the a computer shell is a hell of a lot lighter than the pc with all it’s components in it. I mean, 2 lbs. weighs a lot more than say 8 or 10 lbs! I would figure someone would go “Man, this thing is a little on the light side”… or here is another one.. if someone is returning the computer, wouldn’t they check the thing to at least do a BASIC diagnostic to make sure there not being scammed!


  27. lestat730 says:

    @Lambasted: Great point, it is surprising that the chain didn’t go on alert to this scam. When I used to work as a cashier at a Staples store near me we would occasionally get memos at the checkout desk from corporate and other Staples stores close by about various scams to watch out for. Additionally, we opened every return that had any type of value to check that everything was in order. I even caught a guy once trying to return a 60GB hard drive that he replaced with a 20GB drive!

  28. @B: I was wondering the same thing…

  29. ShirtGuyDom says:

    Nobody noticed how much lighter the PCs were? I guess a customer would bring it up, and the employee, to not look like an idiot, would say: “Oh, yeah, Dell’s started using these new lightweight components so computers are cheaper and easier to move around…uh…yeah, that’s it!”

  30. Part-Time-Viking says:

    @heavylee-again: The issue is that if a customer paid cash, last I checked if it’s more than $250, than a check will need to be sent from Best Buy Corporate to finish the return. He could have been using a credit card, or something of the sort.

    The details on this story is sketchy at best. Before we try to critique this more, we should possibly wait for more information on this.

  31. geoffhazel says:

    We bought a computer from BB and took it back 3 days later. They unboxed it and powered it up, checked all the specs before they would give us a refund.

    Someone at the store was slacking on this one.

  32. GrumpyOldBastard says:

    I don’t think we’ll be hearing many more details on this one. Neither BB nor the authorities want to give away the dude’s modus for fear of inspiring copycats. Most likely scenario that I see:

    Dude buys computers, two or three, claiming they are for his business, home office, whatever.

    Dude goes home (or just does it in the back of his microbus), guts computers, and puts them back in the box with some sort of compensatory weight (metal, rocks, sand, adamantite, mithril, baby harp seals)…and reseals the box.

    Dude is back at the store (probably pretty quickly) and returns them saying that they are incompatible with dude’s router or they don’t match the drapes. As the box is sealed, the BB return folks figure it’s an easy transaction and dude walks away with his cash.

    Just thinking out loud…

  33. Ragman says:

    Not just that the cases were lighter, but a simple visual scan of the BACK of the case would tell you if there were components missing.

    I once (years ago) returned a video card I had bought. The returns guy called a tech (pre-Geek Squad days) over to verify it. He eagle eyed it and checked it against the box before giving it the ok. Guess that’s not SOP anymore.

  34. FLConsumer says:

    @amggal: Have any of you ever taken out the power supplies from one of the crappy PCs WorstBuy sells? They’re practically as light as a deck or two of cards. Barely noticeable. Absolutely nothing like the quality power supplies common in the custom/aftermarket areas.

    Hard drives are another story, still quite heavy for desktop drives.

  35. Part-Time-Viking says:

    @FLConsumer: It’s rather cute the nicknames you folk toss around here when referring to Best Buy, I really hope you aren’t thinking that you’re clever.

    Anyways, if you want to complain about the components in the computers, complain to HP, Gateway, Sony, Acer, Toshiba, Apple and Dell. Best Buy has no say in what these companies put out, they just sell them. But then again, I’m sure my words are falling on deaf ears because a good portion of the readers here would blame Best Buy for the Hiroshima Bomb if they could.

  36. LUV2CattleCall says:

    So….all those times I gutted iPods and that time I gave a friend a “free” upgrade from a 8gb to a 32gb iPod touch, I was in the wrong?

    This also comes in handy if you need to upgrade your external hard drive..

  37. Bruce says:

    Well, isn’t that nice of Worst Buy to place used, questionable or non-functional merchandise back on the shelf for other innocent, unsuspecting customers to buy. I’m willing to bet that not all of those returned computers were labeled as ‘Open Box’ prior to their re-sale to other customers.

  38. FLConsumer says:

    @Part-Time-Viking: I call them WorstBuy in real life as well. There’s also CircuitShitty, Mal-Wart, Comcrap, among others. I disagree with all of these companies’ treatment of customers along with the way they treat their employees and suppliers. I use these terms to refer to these companies not to be witty, but just to tell it like it is. Look at the # of stories on Consumerist (or even in your own town) about customer service. Chances are you’ll find the local mom & pop stores and smaller chains written about favorably, while the largest mass-market chains seem to have trouble with this. It’s no surprise. When your business’ life depends upon every single transaction, you’re going to take care of your customers. Not all chains are evil. It just seems many of the mass-market ones put customer service and repeat sales well below their quarterly statements’ bottom line. Short term profitability = good for company stock, not so good for long-term profitability, but who cares? The shareholders don’t apparently.

    With regards to the power supplies, I find the power supplies in HP/Dell/Lenovo’s corporate-grade computers to be more than sufficient. It’s their consumer-grade equipment that’s poorly made.

    Generally most consumer electronics are poorly made and either priced appropriately (such as the $30 DVD players) or terribly overpriced (Anything made by Bose or the home theater-in-a-box packages so popular with the big box stores).

  39. FreeMarketGravy says:

    @FLConsumer: I guarantee you if you say things like Mall-Wart, Worst Buy or Comcrap in real life, people are laughing at you (in their head if not out loud). Mall-Wart doesn’t even make sense.

  40. Chairman-Meow says:

    @Part-Time-Viking: I thought Best Buy was responsible for the Nagasaki Bomb ?

  41. Pro-Pain says:

    @ Part-Time-Viking – Obviously you’ve never been burned by Best Buy. If not congrats, but I can assure you a LOT of people have. That’s why they are the most hated retailer in the USA. If they went belly up tomorrow I’d throw a party. Really, I would…

  42. b01000100 says:

    @FreeMarketGravy: you might want to check what FLConsumer wrote. It was Mal-Wart. Mal…you know, like bad… and wart…you know, like people that try to talk trash to other people on the Internet for their own opinions.

    I guarantee if you try to talk down to someone on the Internet, people are laughing at you. Your post doesn’t even make sense.

  43. FreeMarketGravy says:

    @b01000100: Ask 10 average people what mal means in that context and see how many people give you the right answer. And a wart is a skin growth.

    I guess if he hangs out exclusively with people who enjoy impotent passive-aggressiveness, then yeah, they all have a hearty laugh. Otherwise?

  44. radio1 says:

    @m4ximusprim3: You gotta be right.

    If the guy was smart and less greedy. He could have swapped out newer parts for older ones.

    @b01000100: In high school, we used to use ‘mal’ as a derogatory term for people. Like, he’s such a mal. But then, this was the ’80s. And mal does mean bad in French.

  45. arras says:

    Most computers weigh..what? 15lbs? 20?

    I can imagine an exchange between the Best Buy returntard and the scammer

    BB-Tard: Can I help you?
    Scammer: Yeah, I need to return this computer
    BB-Tard: Okie doke. Hmmm. This computer is awfully light, are you sure everything’s here?
    Scammer: Yeah, it’s all there. The reason it’s so light is…ummm, it’s not very powerful and that’s why I’m returning it.
    BB-Tard: Oh ok. I guess slower computers are lighter. That makes sense. Here’s your money back, have a nice day

  46. Part-Time-Viking says:

    You’re all right, I’ve never been burned by Best Buy, and I can tell you that the raw bulk of the customer that shop there don’t get burned. Sure, the Consumerist post a lot of stories about Best Buy, I used to say that I knew it was a new day because there was another story posted about it. However Best Buy is one of the largest chains out there, there is BOUND to be a screw-up here or there. Despite what you folk might want to believe though, there are ALWAYS isolated, and rare cases. Might I also mention that they are always one side of the story, which could mean that said “victim” could be bending the truth, if not blowing the whole situation out of proportion. You call it WorstBuy, and yet the stock is maintaining a good price despite the economy. Which clearly means that the company must be doing SOMETHING right.

    One thing I hate though, is how you lot seem to lump every employee into the same group of fools that are usually involved with the stories. I’ve been working for Best Buy for a year and a half. I’ve worked nearly every department in that time, I know the products, I know the companies policy, and I also know how and when to bend or break it. Want to know the kicker? Almost every customer I help (save for the ones who are impossible to work with, there are folk out there that are like this) will complement us on our customer service. My managers are the same way, as well as most of the staff. Ultimately though, I love my job. I feel that I have been given a more than generous wage, the management are nice and flexible, and the people I work with are great. I know that not every Best Buy is like this (I hear many complaints about the store two cities over), but I know that my store is not. I usually come here to this site to read up on stories so not to repeat them if the customer is truly a victim.

    Best Buy is the most hated retailer in the USA? Are we just talking about on this site because as I said, the stock says differently. I won’t deny that there need to be revisions in the policy of Best Buy, I have butted heads about many policies for customers and have usually come out on top in favor of the customer.

    If you think that the stories on this site even begin to represent the general feelings towards Best Buy than you may need some help. This site has become primarily a place for people to bitch about big companies. The Editors posting bash-fest stories for the sake of meeting some theoretical quota has not helped make this site more useful. Going back a few years I noticed that Robert Stevens (Ya know, who made Geek Squad) used to come to this site and would regularly email the editors. I wonder if he realized that a lot of you are lost causes and will hate unconditionally.

    I don’t care if you all hate Best Buy, especially if you had a bad experience (we all have them with retailers, my shit-list consist of Gamestop, Costco, Sears and Target). However, I think you should drop the assumptions that you may have about the company. The assumptions that because one person emails a one-sided complaint about the company that it must means that everyone hate it. But mainly, you should drop the assumption that everyone that works there is a sheep, and a moron. I am neither. I used too respect this site as a credible learning source, however, people with the mindsets of Pro-Pain (Calling you out bud) have really made me a bit leery of even coming here. He’s celebrating a thief because he was stealing from Best Buy. No matter how Robin Hood-Esq that sounds, it’s still a dirt move, and FLConsumer for making the connection that Best Buy might have something to do with the shitty parts that another company puts into their computers. Couldn’t possibly be because HP knew that they could make a little bit more profit off a computer if they threw in parts that is fitting for the original Half-Life.

    I guess asking for level-headed people on a blog-site is asking for a bit much these days.

  47. TheBigLewinski says:

    Glad the basturd (emphasis on “turd”) got caught, he’s gonna be someones bitch in jail.

    Seriously, this is no different than shoplifting, it drives up company expenses and everyone else pays for it. I have zero tolerance for this type of crap…

  48. GrandizerGo says:

    @Part-Time-Viking: Yes they would blame Best Buy you obvious shill.
    Best Buy is NOT DOING THEIR JOB when restocking used merchandise.
    I have returned a computer for a friend when they found the warranty cards inside the box partially filled out.
    She brought it supposedly new, yet obviously it was used.

    While I am doubting the veracity of this story, I do not doubt the crappy Best Buy company.

    NO WAY can someone buy and return that many computers at even 10 stores and not be caught sooner.

    I think these are more, friend in the store opens the back door, hands him computers, and he returns them the same way, minus the parts.

  49. frankiefourfingers says:

    He circumvented the inspection because he resealed the box. An inspection after an unopened item would constitute an open box sale. Shady people have been doing this for years. To avoid the checks being mailed to you you simply pick up another one to part out. That initial cost is quickly made back.
    On another note, for the past year I have been using the hsi coupon for 150 off while selling laptops cheaper than Best Buy on CL. They check the coupon thoroughly each time but it still scans. The money isn’t as good as that but it’s legal.

  50. Kajj says:

    @FLConsumer: Your position is undermined when you express it in such a childish way, and being proud of those little nicknames is just embarassing. It’s like the sneering Linux fanboys who insist on spelling Microsoft with a dollar sign.

    And really people, Best Buy is a bad company. They are not good at what they do. But they are also a very successful company, and very often the only electronics store a town has. Not everyone has access to the secret list of Consumerist-approved retail operations, and sometimes people just want to buy their consumer goods on sale and go home without incident. They shouldn’t be pilloried on the internet for that.

    Can we please, just once, have an article about Best Buy that isn’t followed by half a dozen comments like “Why do people even shop at… snerk… WORST Buy.” It’s repetitive and stupid, and it seriously diminishes the quality and usefulness of this site.

  51. Megatenist says:

    @Part-Time-Viking: Sorry,I stopped listening when you said you worked for Worst-Buy…

    Please troll elsewhere

  52. MilburnOphion says:

    Comment on Man Accused Of Gutting Computers, Returning Them To Best Buy So You Can Buy Them I know the guy. He used to work at Best Buy. Which is how he probably
    could get away with this.

  53. Andr0 says:

    A’ight, the story sucks (rather, the incident sucks) and I agree that BB really failed to do what should be done when someone returns merchandise – in their usual, half-assed fashion they appear to have been happily reselling RMAed merchandise without so much as a ‘does it work’ power-on check.

    However, all the ‘couldn’t you tell box is lighter’ comments made me slightly twitch: the most valuable / highest resale value items in a PC are (with possible exception of video card) CPU & memory: both of those compromise negligible percentage of the PC’s weight and, in case of CPU, can even be removed, then have slot re-covered by the CPU fan so visual check won’t even tell CPU is gone.

    And villain in me is, indeed, screaming at how badly executed the crime was – optimally, one would buy budget CPUs, then buy PCs with matching sockets and high-end CPUs, swap ’em and RMA; even if BB powered up the unit, unless the legendarily competent and zealous GeekSquad techs actually checked the boot-status messages, it’d appear as if the machine is running just fine. Difference between budget and high-end CPUs? As much as $200-400+.

  54. @Part-Time-Viking: Wow! Been holding that in long? Yeah, Best Buy is kind of a on going joke on the consumerist, but thats what happens when your company does some of the shit they do that gets posted here (granted we only hear one side of the story most times)
    You are somewhat right, I’ve been to a Best Buy where, customer service was great, and they actually knew what they are talking about, but I’ve also been to some where their service is deplorable, they knew next to nothing, and deserved to have a post put up about their store. So it goes both ways. Maybe your manager just knows how to run your particular store well?

  55. Part-Time-Viking says:

    @Megatenist: Yup, so I must be troll because I work for the company that you hate. No way in hell I can have an valid positive opinion. I understand that I posted a wall of text but if you stopped reading because of that than you are waste, not I.

    I have stated, that there are some serious issues with the company, and some major revisions NEED to be made, however, it is not the gigantic mess of a company that you people make it out to be. My store is a prime example of what Best Buy SHOULD be, Corporate thinks so, the customers think so, and the employees think so.

    I come to sites like this to become informed of some issues that customers have had with the company so that I cannot repeat them if a similar issue were to come up. However people like you really make coming here dreadful because of your rather arrogant and ignorant opinion of my company, and me as an employee. You don’t know me, you don’t know my back ground, and you don’t know what I know about products.

    I apologize for my previous wall of text, additionally, I appreciate anyone who took, or will take the time to read it. For those who won’t because they see than I work for Best Buy than please keep your comments to yourself, for you have nothing worth reading.

  56. ninjatales says:

    I’m guessing he ran out of Halloween costumes to disguise his appearance.

    Employees will recognize customers who return stuff regularly. Especially if they’re like computers and sort.

  57. smack77 says:

    I just want everyone to know that he works for Best Buy. So he knew the people that was working at customer service. We got emails notice about it a few weeks ago to be on the look out for him. I worked with the guy for 2 years.

  58. elisa says:

    I’ve had really good experiences at my local Best Buy…and really shitty ones at the nearby Circuit City. Guess that’s why the BB is always half to full, and CC is always empty. Like any other business, BB can be good or bad, depending on the store.

    Although in this case, it does seem like BB should have noticed that the same guy kept returning computers. The article notes he did not try to hide his identity at all. So…why didn’t BB catch him? It seems like this is an example of a Worst Buy store.

  59. gomakemeasandwich says:

    I’m rying to figure out who’s dumber in this situation, the guy for blatantly charging his credit card and making no effort to conceal his identity, or the idiots at Best Buy who kept taking back empty computers. Right now I think it’s a toss up.

  60. gomakemeasandwich says:

    Typo: *trying to

  61. gomakemeasandwich says:


    Dude, Best Buy IS a gigantic mess of a company any way you cut it, including corporate. The only way they still make money is because Circuit City is even worse and Wal Mart doesn’t specialize in electronics. That is just reality. BTW, I used to work there, so the “you know nothing about how it is on the inside…” doesn’t apply to me. The company is a giant mess, just come to grips with it.

  62. gomakemeasandwich says:


    Stealing computer parts is what really gets you going, as opposed to child rape and drug dealing? You might want to check your priorities buddy.

  63. gomakemeasandwich says:


    Your whole premise is based on the company’s stock price. That means what exactly? It means that it’s a profitable company, and that’s it. It says little about the quality of the stores, especially considering that Worst Buy has virtually no competition, at least with brick and mortar stores. It may be profitable, but that doesn’t mean that shopping there is a good experience.

    If this site makes you cry, then don’t come to it. A lot of people here like to rip on Worst Buy, and usually for good reasons. For example, do I really need to show some dipshit a receipt for a product he watched me buy?

    As for Best Buy being the most hated retailer in the US, you are aware that there used to be a giant site called “” that had literally thousands of stories from employees and customers about how much Worst Buy sucked…until Worst Buy bought the site from the guy who made it, right?

    It’s also funny that you “don’t care” if people hate Worst Buy, but you endlessly defend it.

  64. gomakemeasandwich says:


    If the “10 average people” you’re talking about are as stupid as you, then your premise would make sense. Don’t try and excuse your stupidity.

    And oh yeah, I know I’m being way “passive aggressive” right now…fucking idiot.