Car dealer under criminal investigation for fraud

Published: May 25, 2016 Action 2 News has learned a businessman operating used car lots in Brown and Outagamie counties is under criminal investigation as authorities look into dozens of complaints of fraud.

We’ve received several calls to our newsroom the last several days from customers. Many of you are asking what’s going on and looking for ways to get your money back.

Standard Pre-Owned has locations in Suamico (formerly known as Backwoods Bargains) and Kaukauna, but as of Wednesday both are shuttered, closed down in the last several days.

Investigators with the Brown County Sheriff’s Office executed a search warrant at the Suamico site last week, writing in court records they were looking to “identify victims… in the investigation into criminal activity.”

According to the warrant, the Department of Transportation has investigated 46 cases of fraud relating to general manager, John M. Solberg, since 2011.

The warrant says Solberg would contact people trying to sell their cars on Craigslist and offer to do it for them.

But investigators say Solberg “refused to pay… the owners… after the sale,” would sell vehicles for a lower price or refused to let the owners have their own car back.

When people complained, investigators say he’d write checks that would bounce.

A former employee told investigators Solberg was up to $300,000 behind in payments.

The warrant says Solberg forged a signature on a title for one customer and also threatened one man.

Action 2 News received several phone calls from customers, asking us to look into this. We tried calling several phone numbers listed for Standard Pre-Owned, and this is what we heard:

“Sorry. That mailbox is full. Thank you for calling. Goodbye.”
Solberg contacted Action 2 News late Wednesday night, saying he’s hired an attorney and has actually sold his business. He believes he’s no longer liable for those claims.

At the Kaukauna location, former employees who do not work for Solberg now are trying to help customers get their cars back, but say in some cases they can’t even find records to show who they really belong to.

The Brown County Sheriff’s Office and Kaukauna Police Department tell us they’re investigating, though charges have not been filed.

Investigators say upset customers should file formal complaints. You can do that with the Department of Transportation, Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) Dealer & Agent Section:

The former employees trying to help customers suggest you also try calling their phone number at (920) 759-1686, and they say they’ll do their best to help customers, though finding records is difficult.

The Kaukauna Police Department suggests customers start with the Department of Transportation.

The Better Business Bureau says if a customer has a check from the dealership and they’re concerned about it bouncing, they should try taking the check to the dealership’s bank to cash. If there’s no money in the account, the bank won’t cash it. Or, take it to your own bank and instead of depositing it you should submit it for collection. If the check bounces, the consumer won’t incur any fees.

We welcome comments and civil discussions. powered by Disqus