Not all Andy Lewises are created equal! This page is about the Andy Lewis who used to work and live in Lake Mary, Florida (aka Heathrow). You should read this section to be sure of the subject of this tale (preferably before jumping to any conclusions).
You might have some questions about this site. Or maybe you came here with specific expectations. If you don't know who Andy Lewis is or why this site is here, keep reading. If you're just here to read the story, then you can get right to it.
Why is this site here?
Well, to cut to the quick of things; Because I feel quite strongly that Andy Lewis is a mean spirited person with little regard for others. He thinks twice about screwing someone over, but only to make sure that he worked out all the details the first time around. In the modern vernacular, it could easily be said that he "sucks." Hence the domain.
So who are you?
My name is Jason Rock, and I'm one of the people that has suffered as a result of Andy Lewis' moral failings and resulting spineless actions. I can probably consider myself lucky; I was only grazed by the figurative bullet. Others were nailed squarely between the eyes.
That's pretty rough! So who's
Andy Lewis is, for all appearances, another Joe Average at a big software company. He works for Veritas Software in Heathrow, Florida. He is the manager of their E-Business group, in other words, the Webmaster. He lives in a large, well-furnished and comfortable home a few miles from where he works. The neighborhoods in Heathrow are quite posh; houses do not come cheap and the area is populated by the likes of Shaquille O'Neal and Michael Jackson. Tiger Woods has played at the local country club. During the dot-com upswing he became a paper millionaire with stock options from Veritas. Of course, he didn't pull out quite in time to avoid the dot-com bomb, so those VRTS stocks that were valued at nearly $150 each at time of issue aren't quite what they were. :)
Before Andy Lewis held the position he does today, he was a missionary in the Philippines. I can only assume that this is where he met his wife; an obsessive collector who seems to have a penchant for procuring her husband's copious funds to drive her doll empire. It's hard to correlate the actions of a missionary with what Andy Lewis has done, but as far as I know it's the truth. I feel sorry for the Filipinos who felt the pangs of his careful ministrations.
Now you've got the brief background on Andy Lewis. Keep going, it gets better...
In 1995, a friend of mine named Blaine Helmick decided to start his own business with the intent of selling custom-built computer systems in a world dominated by Packard Bell and Gateway. Thus was born Talon Systems Inc. The business experienced varying degrees of success over the years, more so as a service company than as a computer retailer. As a good friend of Blaine, I was involved at several levels in the business throughout its lifetime. I assisted during our stretch as a "mobile arcade," offering pay-for-play LAN games at conventions and other gatherings. I did work for the FamilyPC contract when we supported their exhibit at Disney's Epcot Center. And I signed on as a Delphi developer in the fall of 1999 for a project that was to be an insurance company fraud-detection database. This project would begin the sequence of events that would lead to our catastrophic encounter with Andy Lewis.
We had been approached by one Stephen Ratcliff, a realtor and developer from Oviedo, Florida, who happened to be the landlord of our office at the time. We learned that his girlfriend, Deborah Pasha, was currently working for a company called NHR, a firm devoted solely to the practice of taking paperwork from insurance companies, organizing and checking it, placing it into a logical order and then returning it. Furthermore, she was planning on leaving there shortly and starting a company of her own to serve insurance companies in a fraud-finding capacity. Perhaps the fact that she was openly violating a contract she had signed with this company to not engage in a similar practice while in their employ should have tipped us off to the nature of this particular beast, but we didn't take it as the dire warning of things to come.
So it was that we entered into a business arrangement with Stephen Ratcliff and Debbie Pasha to develop for them a relational database and a set of data-mining and sorting tools that would allow them to enter insurance data and then seek out recurring patterns in that data that indicated an abuse of insurance claims. At least, that's how it started. The nature of the database and the tools to access the data began to change almost immediately after we had begun work. We found that it was difficult to extract from Debbie Pasha specific details about the types of data she wanted collected, how she wanted them represented, and what data would be relevant to her fraud-finding procedures. She did have procedures; I'll give her that much, but she had no idea what this product should be doing to meet her goals. When we did finally manage to get her to agree to a development plan, she would return within two weeks with new procedures and different data to be collected. At each turn we were forced to scrap large portions of the completed code and start again. The only procedure that stayed solid was the "pattern searching" of the ICD-9 and CPT codes used by doctors when they bill insurance companies for procedures. Besides a few sections of the product that dealt with storing and sifting these numbers, we never really had code more than two weeks old at any given point in the pained development of that doomed product.
It was along this willy-nilly route that we finally arrived at August of 2000. We had been operating the company at cost for 9 months, paying bare minimum salaries and covering only those expenses required to keep us in business. My own salary was enough to cover my monthly bills, plus $50 extra. George Tyson, another friend and associate, was working for free as the CEO and general manager of the company. Blaine was also working for free, and his wife Tammie was being paid only for work performed and at a special cut rate to boot. In addition to the development work, Stephen Ratcliff utilized us as his personal IT dept., insisting on several occasions that we repair and install software on the computer in his office. He especially wanted the "beta" version of the database software installed on his system. This task fell to me, and I called Stephen Ratcliff one evening and arranged to meet him at his office to do this work. Two hours and three phone calls later, I was finally informed that he couldn't make it, and how about we take care of this later. I shrugged off the whole thing and went back to working on the database back end. Lo and behold, within a week Stephen Ratcliff informs George that he wants both myself and the other developer on the project, Brian Klenk, fired, since we "weren't doing anything and he wasn't going to pay for people to do nothing."
On that edict, we were in fact "fired." Since Stephen Ratcliff was paying all the bills, he was calling all the shots. In reality, both George and Blaine realized that we were working on the actual product and that due to this Stephen Ratcliff's personal IT needs were neglected. But they had little choice in the matter. The project now officially had no developers. It wasn't long after this event that Stephen Ratcliff called a meeting with Blaine, George, and Blaine's mother, who was handling all of our accounting. He demanded to know where all the money he was spending was going. So he was presented with an itemized list of all of the company's expenses, which in fact totaled to the exact amount he was paying us every month. He was the sole client and the only source of income. Upon seeing the statement, Stephen Ratcliff flew into a frenzied fit over the fact that we were using "his money" to pay the company credit card bills. Despite careful explanation that in order to continue operations we needed to pay these bills, and that these expenses comprised a portion of our operating capital expenses, he insisted that the business debts were not his responsibility and that "it wasn't his fault" that we had bills to pay. In a last ditch effort of acquiescence and pacification, Blaine offered to stop charging these expenses to Stephen Ratcliff and would instead seek other clients to cover the gap. This further stirred Stephen Ratcliff's ire. He insisted that he was paying for a full time development team, and that's what he was going to get. Of course he expected all this for around $6300 a month. By the time of the meeting in question, this figure had actually been reduced to $5150. This was the figure that was employing two full-time developers, a full-time manager, two part-time developers, and was paying for the electricity, the phones, and other expenses. For Stephen Ratcliff, it was too much money. So we moved out of the office and called it quits. Stephen Ratcliff demanded the Linux servers for the database, which we handed over. We cleaned out everything else and moved it to Blaine's house. Stephen Ratcliff wrote us a $5150 check for the final invoice, and we left. Later that evening Stephen Ratcliff called Blaine's house and left a message on his answering machine explaining that the check he had written us was worthless, and that the account it was drafted against did not have money in it to cover the check. He had written us a bogus check with full knowledge that it was in fact worthless. So there we were, without clients, with only a few pieces of furniture and some computers, and over $60,000 in business debts over our heads; to top it off the $5000+ check we had was little more than a nicely printed firelighter. The only bright point in the entire mess was that because Stephen Ratcliff procrastinated for 9 months and dodged signing a contract with us to actually produce the software (we were working on a month-to-month basis), the rights to the software were never transferred to him. This allowed us to copyright the software and effectively prevent him from doing anything with the data or code that he had, or from developing a future product on the same lines. It did not pay our debts.
It is of further note that shortly before Stephen Ratcliff collapsed our business and refused to pay us for service rendered, Blaine had lost his job at Veritas software, where he had been employed as a web developer for Veritas' e-business team. A new manager had been put in place of e-business, and he had decided to completely fire all web developers in Florida and build a new team in California. A few months after Blaine was fired, this manager was fired. The more astute readers out there can probably figure out who ended up with this job; that's right, Andy Lewis. As it was, Andy Lewis had been a server admin / developer that worked with but separate from the e-business team. This is how Blaine knew Andy Lewis.
And so it was in October of 2000 Andy Lewis approached Blaine with a business proposal. The idea was this: Andy Lewis would purchase Talon Systems as part of his larger plan to build a web services business. He already had (and still has, as far as I know) a hosting company, and now he was lining up web development and operations people. The supposed upside was that we were a pre-packaged deal; all of the development muscle in one spot, ready to go. The transaction was to be an exchange of liabilities for assets. Andy Lewis agreed to "purchase" our outstanding debt in exchange for all of our assets (including employees). So far, everything was on the level. Then came the weird part. Andy Lewis had an ulterior motive for establishing this new company, namely that he wanted to use it in conjunction with H1-B visas to import his wife's relatives from the Philippines. Andy Lewis explained that his plan was to have the overseas relatives apply for H1-B visas backed by the guarantee of a job, move to the United States, then simply stay in the position for two years until they could apply for legal residence status. He claimed that the relatives would hold "token" positions in the company with menial work; just enough to pass INS muster, and that they wouldn't really interfere. This wasn't what was worrying us; to us, this plan sounded illegal. We wondered aloud about this, and Andy Lewis assured us that the plan was perfectly legal, we just couldn't go around saying something like "Oh them, they don't really do any work here, they're just waiting for their H1-B visas to run out so they can apply for residence in the U.S." It sounded fishy, but at this point we had no reason to doubt Andy Lewis. We trusted him. After all, Blaine had worked with him before, and Andy Lewis had "saved Blaine's ass" at Veritas before. So we bought into the plan. We should've learned from Deborah Pasha about "shady" dealings, but we were in dire straits and we thought that surely a man who was once a missionary would never treat anyone as poorly as we had been treated by Stephen Ratcliff. Well...
At first, things went fairly smoothly. We worked out the details of the transfer and drew up a contract. Andy Lewis rented an office in Lake Mary, and in December we began the task of networking and preparing the office for occupancy. It was in December that the contract was signed. We were now Valencia Online Inc., a corporation wholly owned by Andy Lewis. This new company was to be the combination of Andy Lewis' existing hosting company (Valencia Online)), our web development company (TalonDigital), and another company that was developing server-side applications (Oasyx). We had very little interaction with the other development firm, but the general idea was to eventually bring everyone close enough together that we could utilize the skills of each group. We began adapting an existing product in development to suit the needs of the new business plan we were developing. The application in question was an XML web-based online learning tool, capable of serving pages from a database that were custom built to the needs of the student logged in. The system would additionally allow for rapid input of new course material through an automated publishing system. Since the end of the fraud database project, we had been working on this product for the Institute for Simulation and Training in the Research Park near UCF. The implication was that if we could make this work for IST, other government agencies would follow. In this application we saw the potential to enhance the services we planned to offer through Valencia Online. Not only would we be able to continue developing for IST, but we could also use the automated publishing technology we were working on for clients of Valencia Online, offering "do-it-yourself" websites that would allow advanced editing and professional results without much technical know-how on the part of the clients. And if they needed more, we could always do custom development.
Through December and into January we worked on the IST project, and we outfitted the new office. Oh boy did we outfit. Andy Lewis suggested that the place needed desks, and had us purchase them on Talon Systems credit. He paid for a new server to be used as the database system, and an additional development computer. We were filling in all the other "small" equipment on the Talon Systems credit cards. George had been put in charge of the office; so chairs, paper, office supplies and other equipment was being charged onto the cards on a very regular basis, since it was often difficult to reach Andy Lewis and get funds directly to purchase new equipment. The logic was that since Andy Lewis and Valencia Online would be assuming the debt anyways (per the terms of the contract we had signed), it could be charged on Talon Systems accounts and would essentially be the same as buying it as Valencia Online. Andy Lewis basically consented on this point, and away we went. By the middle of January the spending had slowed, and there was actually a bit of hope on the horizon: We had presented a demo version of the IST system (as we were calling it) to IST, and they had agreed to pay $25,000 for additional development. This looked like the break we had been waiting for! Finally we had a clear interest from a real client, who was paying real money for us to develop a product. At this point we were riding high. We figured with a sizable government contract within reach, and the financial backing of Andy Lewis, we were finally going to be able to get the company profitable and reach the goals we had set so long ago.
We were awaiting the $25,000 check from IST with some anxiety, since we had spent quite a lot since August and we planned to use some of that money to pay the credit card bills soon to come due. Andy Lewis had not yet taken over the corporate debt, despite signing the contract and moving us into an office. This had some of us concerned, but not too much, since we believed Andy Lewis' explanations concerning getting his accounts in order and sorting out some personal details before he finalized the merging of Talon Systems into Valencia Online. On top of this, Andy Lewis hadn't paid anyone a salary or wage since the middle of January. We figured we could use a little bit of the income to make sure that people had enough money to pay their mortgages and buy food until Andy Lewis finalized everything. Finally, near the end of February, we were told that the money was in and that IST would draft us a check ASAP. Our happiness was short lived.
Andy Lewis called a meeting on February 27th with the original directors, Blaine, George, and three other personnel immediately after we received this news. Figuring that he had some new ideas to discuss, they proceeded to the meeting with no expectations of what was to come. When they arrived, Andy Lewis presented them with a contract and an ultimatum: Sign this contract, or I will simply close down your business and leave you in the lurch. The contract was an agreement to nullify the previous contract that bound Andy Lewis to purchase Talon Systems and return both Talon Systems and Valencia Online to their previous un-integrated states. Andy Lewis claimed that he "had lost too much money" in the venture and couldn't continue. Furthermore, he said that he had gone directly to IST and collected the $25,000 check, deposited it, and taken $19,000 as compensation for his expenses. Andy Lewis had achieved this feat by deceiving the bank into believing he had signatory authority to our account. He was able to accomplish this by producing minutes of the corporation from February 14th, 2001 that appeared to appoint him sole director and shareholder. What had happened on the 14th in reality was that Andy Lewis had fired Blaine's mother as the corporate accountant and treasurer on the pretense that he was going to have his own accountant handle the corporate bookkeeping from that point forward. He collected the corporate books and the corporate seal which he said he was going to deliver to his accountant. Instead he generated the aforementioned minutes and used them for his treachery; now he was returning the corporate books and seal, and was ready to throw us away. All of this he did to cover his expenses! It was as if he were saying that everyone else had contributed nothing. That our time, effort, and all of the loans counted for absolutely nothing when compared to his involvement of less than three months. Blaine, George, and the others were incredulous. We had worked for months on that product, put in hours for free with no guarantees of being paid, all for that check and the promise of future business. Andy Lewis stood before them with a proverbial hatchet in hand; the contract that rent all of that work and effort into a thousand pieces. On top of this, he was refusing to honor his agreement to assume the debts in exchange for the assets of Talon Systems, and basically alluded to the fact that, if he closed the business at this point, we'd be stuck with all the debts anyways since all of the loans were secured in Blaine, George's, and Blaine's mother's names and had not yet been transferred. The situation was relatively hopeless. Blaine, George and the other directors signed the contract in order to retain the corporate name, for whatever it was worth, and left.
So there we were again. Now we had over $73,000 in debt, a sizable portion of that incurred while we believed that Andy Lewis was to buy the company in order to pay insurance premiums, phone bills, and other expenses. We had been holding the business together with the credit cards while Andy Lewis was "getting his affairs in order." Now we realized that he was simply waiting until the IST check arrived so that he could grab it and run. This from the man who lives in a huge house in Heathrow, makes over six figures a year and had well over a million dollars in stock options in his accounts. Andy Lewis, a man who was once a missionary, a man who professed the word of God to others, had baited us along until he could pluck the ripe fruits of our labors from our very hands and slap us in the face. This is what Andy Lewis has done to us.
Andy Lewis has
since let the Valencia Online Corporation enter "administrative dissolution" and
formed two new corporations; OASYX.net Inc. and Oasyx Software
Corporation. I now know that it is apparently against Veritas corporate
policy to be a shareholder in another corporation while working for Veritas;
especially if that other company is in the same competitive arena (software
development). Somehow Andy Lewis skirts this requirement; if I had known of this
angle before we had become involved with Andy Lewis, I would have had strong
reservations against it, especially after the strikingly similar situation with
Debbie Pasha. Such willingness to ignore employment agreements seems to indicate
things about someone's personality.
Since that time we've tried to move forward, but we have no capital. Our credit is completely expended. The credit companies have come knocking, and there's no money to pay them. The bills are crushing. It's impossible to pursue new business simply because everyone must work full-time in order to live, and no one has time to follow through on leads. We can no longer pursue the IST contract, since we lack the facilities or resources to meet their requirements. Blaine has been forced to bear the complete brunt of the creditors, and it has pushed him nearly to the brink of financial ruin. He doesn't have the padding of several thousand stock options behind him. Instead he's trying to find a way to re-mortgage his house, his car, and anything else in order to get money at lower interest rates to pay the bills. George is still out of work. I'm working part time while I go back to school. I'd like to help Blaine, but my job pays enough for tuition and books, and just covers my other bills.
So there it is, the whole horrible and sad story. I hope you've enjoyed reading this, if only to say to yourself that you're glad it wasn't you. And I personally urge you very strongly: If you ever find yourself doing business with Andy Lewis or his businesses, consider every action you take very carefully. Andy Lewis has proven himself a sinister person when it comes to integrity and honesty. Watch your money, and watch your back around Andy Lewis.
November 15th, 2001
It would seem that Andy Lewis' employment at Veritas has been terminated. The story I have is that an upper manager was asked to leave (for ineptitude or some other reason), and he decided that a few of his underlings needed to feel his pain as well. For reasons of his own, he "implicated" Andy Lewis, who was let go along with a few others. I don't really believe in karma, but I do believe in "reap what you sow." Looks like harvest time is here.
Update: March 27th, 2002
Dark days. Blaine has finally had to declare bankruptcy due to overwhelming debts. He did try valiantly to continue making payments on the credit cards, but with only contract work as an instructor, there just hasn't been enough money to fill the gaping maw. His financial back will be broken for at least the next 10 years. Nice job Andy Lewis, you're a real stand-up kinda guy.
Update: July 29th, 2002
More shenanigans from Andy Lewis. Seems like he has the impression that somehow we are withholding the $19,000 that was frozen by Bank of America, and that we have the power to release it to him through some means. To this end, he has had a lawyer send us a letter demanding that we (we as in the defunct Talon Systems) resolve the situation with the bank so that he can get his money (his money. That still cracks me up). Somewhere along the line it failed to sink into his head that we had nothing to do with the seizure of those funds. The bank decided of their own accord that the transaction was potentially fraudulent and that they would be holding the money until the issue was resolved. Naturally, Andy Lewis decides that rather than stand up to a big financial institution with enough money to crush him into dust (and then crush him into sub-atomic particles), he'd rather shake the lawyer stick at us in hopes of scaring us into doing...something (whatever it is he imagines we can do).
Furthermore, Andy Lewis has threatened to sue Blaine's mother, saying that she unnecessarily ruined his credit. What she had in fact done was send unpaid bills for financial services (extraneous services she had performed for the Talon Systems / Valencia Online entity, all while under the operation of Andy Lewis) to a collection agency. The collection agency in turn put a mark in Andy Lewis' credit file that they were attempting to collect unpaid bills. The concept of "request services then pay for services" seems foreign to Andy Lewis, right along with "make a promise, keep a promise." We've reached a new low here with Andy Lewis; welcome to the underside of the barrel.
That's an incredible story. What can I do?
For your own safety, don't do any business with Andy Lewis. I'd hate to see anyone else destroyed by his practices. If you're really moved by this story, maybe you can donate some money to Blaine Helmick. He can seriously use it.
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I welcome comments and questions, and will gladly provide any additional information concerning the story on this site. Simply e-mail me.
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