Summit Contracting case like a puzzle, detective says
An investigator working the Summit Contracting case the last six months talks for the first time, telling victims how they can help in what he says is clearly a criminal and not civil case.
We first told you about De Pere-based Summit Contracting back in October when angry homeowners told us they were being charged for incomplete remodeling work.
In November, the U.S. Attorney's Office in Green Bay requested a civil injunction against Summit, calling it a "fraudulent scheme" involving wire fraud and banking law violations.
No charges have been filed, but Tuesday, December 17, the FBI launched a special website, asking anyone who's had dealings with Summit as customers, employees or witnesses, to tell their story confidentially.
No one but law enforcement is able to see the information submitted through that FBI questionnaire (
for the website).
A local investigator tells Action 2 News this is clearly a criminal, not a civil case.
"It's much like a puzzle underneath. You look at the one piece and a couple pieces, maybe it appears that way, but when you take the whole investigation, where there's smoke, there's fire, and there's certainly a criminal investigation going on here now," says Detective Sergeant Zak Holschbach, an investigator with the Brown County Sheriff's Office.
He's been helping investigate Summit Contracting, at the FBI's request, since June.
Since then, he's become a go-to contact for victims all over the state and Michigan's Upper Peninsula because he was one of the first to listen to them.
"You come into contact with victims that are really persistent, very organized, that have meticulous notes, pictures, so I really continue to be impressed in this case and other cases with those type of victims that really empower the other victims," says Holschbach.
While he can't talk many specifics on the case, he says collecting those details are critical in an investigation.
He urges anyone who's dealt with Summit to fill out that questionnaire the FBI launched, providing details like who you worked with and contract and banking information
"We want to capture it all to be able to go through it, process it and use it to properly investigate this," says Holschbach.
Over the last six months, many victims have called us, saying they tried to report their problems to law enforcement but were told it was a civil matter, sometimes because their cases dealt with money or delayed reporting.
"It's often in that gray area of civil versus criminal, and the reality or this particular fraud is... a victim is holding hope that work will be done to their property, holding hope that they'll get some sort of money back, so they just wait and wait, so there's, by design, delayed reporting, because they figure, well if I get something done, it's better than nothing. if I get some money back, it's better than nothing, and then at some point, they realize, I'm not getting anything," explains Holschbach.
We asked him if victims can get their money back. While that's hard for him to answer, he says the court could order restitution if there's a criminal charge or indictment.
"But in many of these fraud type cases, a lot of times the money is already spent, so I would say, if you think of any type of a Ponzi scheme or any type of a scam like that, you're taking new victim money, paying for old victim problems. You're using that money to blast out advertising to capture more victims, so you're getting more people coming in," he explains. "So the reality is, once it's done, which part of that public civil injunction was to alert people, we were trying to do everything we could before the criminal investigation is done, to assist with stopping potential future victims."
While the civil injunction request doesn't order Summit to close, which allows advertising to continue, Holschbach says it was meant to educate the public in what federal prosecutors called a "scheme to rip off customers and financial institutions."
Wednesday, our cameras captured a For Lease sign outside what had been Summit's offices in De Pere.
We also saw a Summit trailer and activity at a new, different west De Pere office building.
While the FBI gathers more information, Holschbach reminds victims the case is still very active.
"The wheels don't turn that fast, but we're doing everything we can and we're doing it correctly to get justice in the end here," he says. "We hear you. We're going to get to you. We do care about what you have to say."
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