Computron’s landlord puts detective on its tail

Locked doors and unanswered phone calls have customers and business associates of Computron Systems Inc. asking questions about the Markham, Ont.-based notebook computer distributor’s future.

Computron’s landlord, suppliers and end-users are all trying to track down the company and its president, Amin Rhemtulla.

A visit Tuesday to Computron’s offices revealed what looked to be an abandoned business. All doors to the building were locked and most of the blinds were closed. The offices visible through the few exposed windows were cleared out. Cleaning supplies filled the reception desk.

On the front door a notice from The Bacher Group dated July 5, 2001 informed Computron of its continued rights as a tenant of the building, despite the new locks on the building’s doors.

Computron’s neighbours in the sprawling office and factory neighbourhood said they had not seen anyone entering or leaving the building for two weeks.

When contacted, landlord Norman Bacher said Rhemtulla left suddenly, without covering all of his debts.

“He skipped out in the middle of the night,” Bacher said, adding that Rhemtulla failed to clean the premises before departing. “He owes me a year-and-half’s rent.”

Bacher said he has a detective on the lookout for Rhemtulla and Computron, but the landlord may have to take a number.

Suppliers are calling Bacher regularly in search of Computron and its boss, and end-users of Computron products are also hunting for the elusive company.

Computron assembled, distributed and serviced notebooks under the brand name HyperData. The brand led consumers and resellers to believe Computron was affiliated with Walnut, Calif.-based HyperData another manufacturer of notebook computers.

Canadian customers trying to contact Computron have been met with either a perpetually-ringing phone or an unavailable Web site ( Undeterred, Canucks have been calling the California company in droves looking for support and service.

“We get a lot of phone calls every day, ” said Eric Luo, Hyperdata’s customer service manager. “We don’t know anything about that.”

Luo said Computron had in the past ordered parts and systems from HyperData, but those purchases stopped five years ago. He added the companies were never affiliated.

James Kang, president of Vancouver-based reseller Gravity Computers Inc., said that when he began ordering product from Computron in September 1999 he believed Computron had a relationship with HyperData because their products shared the HyperData name.

But when Kang discovered discrepancies in the products the two companies where offering, he enquired about the relationship between Computron and HyperData. Kang said when questioned, Computron admitted the two companies were not affiliated.

There were a number of reasons to be suspicious about Computron, Kang said. Repeated promises to open a service department on the West coast were never met. Kang also said last year a service representative “disappeared in the middle of the night,” something virtually unheard of in Kang’s experience. “Maybe he knew something was going on,” Kang said.

Service was also questionable, Kang said. On one occasion, Computron returned a malfunctioning laptop without having done any repairs. And service was such a big issue, Kang said, because nearly every one of Computron’s products needed it.

Kang said his first Computron HyperData laptops, which could be had for about $300 to $400 less than their big-name counterparts, worked well. But later shipments were full of laptops with flickering screens and other technical problems.

“It just got went from worse to worse,” Kang said. “I just can’t tell you what my clients have been telling me.”

Kang said he been ordering only small components recently, the last of which was ordered three weeks ago and received about a week later.

Those with poorer timing than Kang are left wondering: where in the world is Amin Rhemtulla? Investigation into his whereabouts seems only to raise new questions. For example, Rhemtulla’s old business card includes a number and address for Computron’s United States/Latin America office. The number actually belongs to a Miami company called Exxel Technologies. The woman who answered the phone at Exxel said Exxel had been at that number for five years and no one at its offices had ever heard of Computron or Amin Rhemtulla.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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