Trial now set for John Solberg, consignment car dealership owner indicted on fraud

Published: Jul. 22, 2021 at 1:56 PM CDT|Updated: Jul. 22, 2021 at 4:56 PM CDT
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GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - John Solberg will now be going to trial in his federal fraud case.

The former owner of consignment car shops, that once operated under the names Standard Pre-Owned and Backwoods Bargains in Suamico and Kaukauna, was scheduled to have a ‘change of plea’ hearing in federal court in Wisconsin’s Eastern District Thursday afternoon.

Instead, the judge began the virtual hearing, appearing surprised, saying if there’s no plea, he wants it scheduled for trial.

In past hearings, he’s allowed more status conferences for attorneys to work out a potential deal.

A trial regarding Solberg’s 15 counts of wire, mail or bank fraud is now scheduled for October 25, 2021.

A federal indictment says Solberg would forge vehicle titles and/or sell cars for people without their knowledge and then keep the money.

An investigation started more than five years ago.

Solberg was arrested and first appeared in federal court in November of 2019.

He entered a not guilty plea at that time.

In Thursday’s brief virtual hearing, the judge said attorneys could continue working to reach a plea agreement, but he wants a specific date set for that to happen, telling them, “Let’s not play chicken” and wait until the last minute.

Federal court rules prohibit us from recording proceedings, but we were allowed to watch them.

Court records filed Thursday in the Eastern District of Wisconsin federal court system show Solberg’s attorney notified the clerk Thursday morning they did not have a signed plea agreement, and Solberg wouldn’t be entering a guilty plea.

According to other new documents filed Thursday, Solberg’s attorney says they’re “working on resolving the matter, but are not certain that will happen.”

His attorney asked for a seven-day trial.

While we know little about any plea agreement negotiations, court records do state Solberg has “retained experts,” which his attorney says “would likely affect the plea agreement and sentencing.”

As part of our First Alert Investigation the day before this federal hearing, Solberg told us repeatedly by phone and through messages that he was prepared to pay victims who’ve accused him of fraud in the car consignment case.

RELATED STORY: First Alert Investigation finds more legal woes for ex-car salesman charged in federal probe

He texted this to us, writing: “12-31-20 I turned over 150,000$ into a trust account For Standard Pre owned. That money needs to be distributed. That is more than what was owed according to prosecutors.”

There was no discussion of that in Thursday’s seven-minute hearing.

Action 2 News will continue to follow this case and alert you if there is a plea agreement reached before the October trial date.

In the meantime, following our initial report involving Solberg and other contracting businesses he’s associated with, we are continuing to receive messages from viewers saying they, too, have had problems with roofing work and are asking us to look into it.

We will continue to do that.

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