DE PERE, Wis. (WBAY) - Dozens of you have asked us to look into a pattern of businesses, opened and shut down, by the owners of Summit Contracting, Inc.
We first told you about Summit Contracting back in October, when our investigations uncovered multiple law enforcement agencies had opened criminal investigations into contractor fraud by the De Pere-based company.
Last week, the US Attorney's Office filed a motion for an injunction in the way Summit Contracting operates, calling it a "fraudulent scheme" to take customer's money and saying it's trying to prevent future victims of Summit's "wire fraud and banking violations."
No official charges against the company have yet been filed.
We've been digging through state records and databases for weeks and discovered a long history of short-term businesses run by the men who now own Summit, Chad Schampers and Nate Smith.
Our email inbox and voicemails filled up with your tips, recognizing their names from running other businesses but with very similar complaints to those now lodged against Summit Contracting.
The deeper we dug, the more names and court cases we found associated with them.
Horizon Homes, Schampers Properties, Nate Smith Construction, Bay Area Construction Services LLC, GC Badgerland Flooring, Smith Sheetrock & Construction, Chad Properties, Good As New, GC Rentals 1 and the Kewaunee Car Wash.
Those are the companies we found by searching state financial and court records that were under the ownership and leadership of either Chad Schampers or Nate Smith.
They were all in operation at some point in the last 12 years.
Tips from many viewers told us to start with Horizon Homes.
After our first story on Summit Contracting, one man wrote us, "2012/2013, under the business Horizon Homes, Chad Schampers did a large construction project. After paying upfront for many services and materials, they stopped answering my calls and never returned to fix the work they did wrong.”
Another woman wrote, "Chad Schampers was known as a different company five years ago. He remodeled my entire house using mostly used parts and inexperienced people. He put in a furnace he told me was brand new and it turned out to be over 20 years old.”
While viewers gave us several more names of businesses to look into, we are using only those we could verify through official state or local government agencies.
We used the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institution’s database to find out to whom the businesses were registered.
From there, we cross-checked information on the Wisconsin Circuit Court Access website to find court cases associated with those businesses.
That turned up eight businesses for Schampers and two for Smith in just over a decade, not including Summit Contracting.
Most businesses stayed open a few years at a time, overlapping with other businesses, as court cases mounted against several of the companies.
From 2007 to 2011, we found Chad Schampers owned Schampers Properties before it administratively dissolved.
Dissolution means a business fails to file an annual report or pay annual fees.
From 2007 to 2012, Chad Properties was in business.
In the middle of those two businesses, Schampers opened Bay Area Construction Services, in operation from 2009 to 2013.
WDFI records shows it relisted as active again last year.
But before Bay Area Construction closed, state records show Schampers opened Horizon Homes.
That lasted from 2012 to 2015 before it went out of business.
The trend continues, overlapping another business from 2013 to 2017 where we found Schampers operating GC Badgerland Flooring.
And the list goes on.
We found GC Rentals 1 LLC open from 2015 to 2018.
Good As New, a consignment shop in Kewaunee, registered with the WDFI in 2014 and is still listed as active.
Finally, there's the Kewaunee Car Wash, where police reports of people complaining the machines there took their money say Schampers still owns that business, too.
We uncovered a long list of court cases associated with all but two of those businesses.
In total, records we found show Schampers paid more than $88,000 to creditors, contractors and homeowners under court order from settlements and judgments for his various businesses since 2007.
But court records show he still owes nearly $30,000 to more homeowners, creditors and others, including the DNR and the City of Green Bay, which issued fines and fees to Schampers, including not pulling permits to do home remodeling or construction work.
We uncovered only two businesses owned by Nate Smith.
Smith Sheetrock and Construction LLC was open from 2009 to 2012, and Nate Smith Construction was in operation from 2016 to June of 2019, when it dissolved.
Smith is facing a big lawsuit with his more recent company.
A Manitowoc County homeowner tells the court he and his wife paid Smith $319,000 to build them a new house, but their lawsuit states the work was not completed and Smith forged their signatures trying to get money from the title company.
The case is still pending in circuit court.
When we checked for Nate Smith’s license to operate as a contractor in Wisconsin, we found it expired in 2017.
Schampers’ license is current.
We asked the Department of Safety and Professional Services, the agency that issues licenses, for any complaints filed against Schampers, Smith or their businesses.
A DSPS spokesperson tells us one complaint has been filed but denied our request for more information, including which man is being investigated.
All this might have you asking the same thing we asked: How can the same people own so many businesses without a red flag somewhere?
The Better Business Bureau tells us in an email it’s “very aware that unreputable businesses with a lot of complaints will simply change names to avoid detection."
It says when the same owner and same or similar business category appear, they merge their files so complaints and customer reviews transfer.
In this case, the BBB connected Bay Area Construction, Schampers Properties and GC Rentals 1 all doing business as Horizon Homes.
It tells us it identified GC Badgerland Flooring as doing business as Summit Contracting.
The BBB says it did receive complaints for Horizon Homes and Nate Smith Construction in the past, but the general public can no longer access those complaints or the history and profiles of all those other companies once the businesses closed.
When we asked viewers about filing complaints or calling police with issues they say they had with the past companies, they tell us they were embarrassed or thought they were the only ones having problems.
But they say now knowing the men are on the radar of the federal government, they wish they would have reported their problems.
As for Summit Contracting, the attorneys in the case have a conference with the federal judge scheduled for Friday morning.
As of Thursday, the Wisconsin Consumer Protection Agency tells us it has received 20 complaints regarding Summit Contracting.
We're closely monitoring Summit's federal case and will alert you to any new developments and updates.
If you have more questions or stories you want to share, you can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.