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Best Buy, `Geek Squad' sued over videotaping

A technician on a service call at a home is arrested after woman is recorded while in the shower.

April 12, 2007|Ashley Surdin | Times Staff Writer

A woman and her mother sued Best Buy and its "Geek Squad" computer repair team Wednesday, claiming they were legally responsible for dispatching a technician who allegedly videotaped the daughter taking a shower.

The suit, filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court on behalf of Sarah Vasquez, 22, and her mother, Natalie Fornaciari, 46, both from city of Industry, alleges that Geek Squad technician Hao Kuo Chi, 26, placed his cellphone in Vasquez's bathroom during a computer service call March 4 and recorded her showering.

Chi was arrested the same day on suspicion of using a camera to view a person without their consent and of annoying or molesting a child under 18, both misdemeanors, said Sheriff's Sgt. Bob Skudlarski.

The family said that they relied on the national chain to screen and train agents before sending them into people's homes.

They also relied on the Geek Squad's brochure, which promised to provide "agents you can trust."

"Businesses need to do a better job of screening the employees whom they send to their customers' homes," said attorney Gloria Allred, who is representing the family.

A Best Buy spokeswoman said she learned of the lawsuit shortly after it was filed Wednesday.

"Best Buy was not informed of this action prior to being contacted by the media today," the company said in a statement. "Obviously, we intend to cooperate fully with any investigation into this matter."

According to the suit, Chi came to the family's home last month for a scheduled computer service appointment. After starting to work, he asked to use the bathroom and was shown to one shared by Vasquez and her 13-year-old sister, Kelly Rocha, the lawsuit said.

Vasquez later showered in the same bathroom. When she stepped out of the stall, she noticed a cellphone propped up on her cluttered sink, the suit said. The phone was covered in a leather case; a small camera with a red, blinking light was sticking out, she said.

Suspicious, Vasquez left the bathroom to tell her sister Kelly and when she returned, the phone was gone. Kelly then found the phone in her bedroom. Believing the phone was programmed to record her as well, she removed its memory chip and she and Vasquez took it to a Verizon store to see what was on it.

"You could see him on the video setting it up," Vasquez said. "I was shocked."

The sisters called their stepfather, who reported Chi to police, and he was arrested at their house.

The family is seeking compensatory and punitive damages for alleged fraud, negligent misrepresentation and hiring, invasion of privacy, intentional infliction of emotional distress and breach of warrant.

ashley.surdin@latimes.com

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