First Alert Investigation: Tracking the money after Summit Contracting federal charges

Published: Feb. 10, 2022 at 5:24 PM CST
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BROWN COUNTY, Wis. (WBAY) - It is now a waiting game for victims of a shuttered contracting company as they try to figure out if they’ll ever get any money back from what prosecutors call a ‘fraud scheme.’

Those victims are among many who’ve told us they lost tens of thousands of dollars to Summit Contracting, Inc.

Nate Smith, Chad Schampers, Gina Schampers and Jeffrey O’Brien were indicted in federal court on wire and bank fraud charges February 1st.

Federal prosecutors say Summit used ‘misleading, deceptive’ tactics to con customers out of more than $1.5 million dollars in 2018 and 2019.

Action 2 News has been listening to victims and reporting on the company for nearly three years.

“I just want to see things progress and have a happy outcome for everyone,” said Bill Janke, a Summit Contracting victim who attended a victims-only meeting at the Brown County Sheriff’s Office Wednesday night.

“Everybody wants their credit ratings back to being normal again,” said Mary Klimczyk, another Summit Contracting victim who attended that meeting.

Victims are holding on to hope the criminal filing in federal court against the leaders of Summit Contracting is just the first step in eventually ending what many of them described to us from the beginning as a ‘nightmare.’

Customers started telling us back in 2019 that the company was draining their bank accounts, taking out loans under misleading terms, and then leaving customers on the hook to pay for unfinished home repairs.

Those are the same allegations identified by federal prosecutors in the indictments filed against the four from Summit Contracting.

Since then, we’ve repeatedly heard questions about money. Can victims ever get repaid? If so, just how much? And where would the money come from since Summit Contracting officially closed back in 2020? We searched federal records for Summit’s owners, looking for answers.

We found both Chad Schampers and Nate Smith filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy last year, according to online federal records.

Those documents show both owners estimated having $500,000-$1 million in liabilities and owed between one and 49 creditors.

Among the pages of individual creditors’ listings on those federal filings, records indicate nearly $265,000 owed to a supply company and more than $7,000 owed to Brown County.

The documents for Schampers included another $3,000 owed to the Department of Workforce Development.

The documents for Smith included judgments from civil cases filed in Wisconsin Circuit Court for tens of thousands of dollars more.

The records also show Schampers took a $110,000 salary from Summit Contracting in 2019.

Those bankruptcy cases for both owners closed last year.

Legal experts tell us, generally, Chapter 7 bankruptcy allows someone to sell many assets to help pay off debt, and once the case closes, leftover debt is generally forgiven as well.

But it still leaves a lot of questions about any money that might be available for victims.

And that was the big question they wanted answered at the victims-only meeting Wednesday night.

While the criminal case makes it harder for victims to talk to us now, that is clearly still priority number one.

“Most people are worried about their credit and credit rating,” said Klimczyk. “It’s going to be a process, but they’re (officials) all willing to help us get through it.”

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