A Spooner man, identified as Roger Zempel, is facing felony charges in Barron County Circuit Court after an investigation by the Barron Police Department revealed that he allegedly took nearly $70,000 for a construction job that he did not finish.
A criminal complaint was filed against Zempel on May 22, 2018 and states that in February 2018, the Barron Police Department received a complaint that Zempel had taken payments on a contract for a remodeling project on a building on East LaSalle Avenue in Barron, WI, but that he had failed to complete the work that was paid for.
When investigating officers spoke with the owner of the building, she provided multiple documents regarding the work that Zempel had agreed to do on the building as well as documents regarding the payments that had been provided to Zempel for that work.
The building’s owner showed investigating officers a quote that was dated January 26, 2016, for nearly $120,000. She went on to state that the first payment had been given to Zempel in February 2016, for demolition in the upstairs of the building.
Several more payments, totaling several thousand dollars, were provided to Zempel throughout 2016. In November 2016, Zempel signed as General Contractor for the project, with over $114,000 allocated as the remaining cost to build.
Investigating officers received documentation from Westconsin Credit Union in which Zempel identified himself as General Contractor for the job. Arrangements were also put into place to allow for five payment draws to be provided to Zempel for the remaining work. In addition to money paid to Zempel through the loan with Westconsin Credit Union, the building’s owner also paid several thousand dollars to Zempel in separate transactions for additional work that he indicated needed to be completed on the project.
The building’s owner also told investigating officers that Zempel had stripped some original wainscoting from the building without permission and apparently sold it and kept the money.
The criminal complaint goes on to state that in December 2017, Zempel submitted another payment draw request, itemized as payment for windows and a fire escape for the building project. Then in January 2018, Zempel submitted yet another payment draw request, stating it was for electrical work for the project that was to be completed by a new electrician.
At this time, the loan officer for Westconsin Credit Union became concerned and told Zempel that he needed to submit direct billing from the new electrician before the money would be paid out and going forward all invoices needed to be submitted prior to any funds being paid out.
The loan officer went on to tell investigating officers that although Zempel stated that he would be able to finish the project by February 2018, calls to Zempel went unanswered and his vehicle could not be found at the project.
When investigating officers went to the building project site, they found piles of old insulation and lumber that appeared to have been torn down. The criminal complaint notes that no new windows were located inside the building or installed in the building. Investigating officers also located the wall where the wainscoting had been stripped away.
On February 16, 2018, the building’s owner contacted investigating officers to tell them that on the day before, Zempel had called her, and told her that he knew what he did was wrong, and that he was sorry. He went on to say that he had moved to Arkansas and was living with his brother. Zempel also told her that he did not have any of the money that had been paid to him.
Later that same day, officers saw Zempel’s van parked at McDonald’s. When the officer went inside, he made contact with a man who said that he bought the van from Zempel about a week and half prior, and that Zempel had told him he was selling everything and leaving town.
According to the criminal complaint an extradition warrant was obtained for Zempel to bring him back to Wisconsin. On March 12, 2018, Zempel was interviewed at the Barron Police Department by officers, and the criminal complaint states that during his interview, Zempel confirmed that he did not purchase windows or a fire escape with the money that had been provided to him for that purpose, and that he had taken money from “day one for things that weren’t done”.
Zempel is charged with Class G Felony Theft by Contractor Greater than $10,000. If convicted as charged, Zempel faces a possible maximum penalty of imprisonment for not more than 10 years, a maximum fine of $25,000, or both.
According to online circuit court records, Zempel also has a second pending criminal case in Barron County Circuit Court charging him with Class H Felony Operating While Intoxicated 4th Offense, Misdemeanor Possess Drug Paraphernalia, and Misdemeanor Possess/Illegally Obtained Prescription stemming from an incident on March 17, 2018. Details of that case are not known to DrydenWire.com at this time.
Zempel is due to make an initial appearance in June 2018 regarding his charge of Felony Theft by Contractor.
Pursuant to the direction of the Wisconsin Supreme Court, as found in Supreme Court Rule 20:3.6, Trial Publicly, you are advised that a charge is merely an accusation and that a defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.