WAUSAU — Two suspects are due in court later this month to face theft accusations in an alleged driveway paving scheme.
Police say James Johnathan Swartz, 36, of New Lisbon, and Richard P. Harris, 32, of Tomah, persuaded an elderly Edgar man to hire them to coat his driveway without a state-required contract and charged the man twice what the job should have cost. Both men are facing charges of theft by false representation with special facts.
A Marathon County Sheriff’s deputy identified Swartz and Harris following a traffic stop, but police were forced to let them go before an investigation could be completed. Warrants are out for the arrest of both men, who are due in Marathon County Circuit Court July 20 for an initial appearance on those theft charges.
The two could have been using the business name “Cuzzin’ Jim’s Hot Mix Asphalt Paving,” police said, based on a pamphlet that was found in their possession during the traffic stop.
Edgar Police Chief Jeanette Stankowski said the duo first came to her attention more than a year ago, after allegations surfaced that they defrauded another area man by grinding up recycled blacktop, placing it through a paving machine, rolling it onto a driveway and passing the job off as a legitimate blacktop job.
Both men have a long history of drug and other convictions, according to online court records. Swartz sometimes uses an alias, going by the names Brandon Lee Goodwin, JimmyJon Swartz and Vincent S. Williams, court records show.
Stankowski said driveway scams are common this time of year, and fraudsters typically tend to prey on the elderly.
What you should know: Six asphalt paving scam warning signs
- Claiming they have leftover asphalt from another job: Professional asphalt contractors will know, with great accuracy, how much paving material is needed to complete a project. Rarely will they have leftover material. Some of the reasons a contractor might have left over material are due to weather, equipment problems, or cancellations, but that should be rare.
- Push you to make a quick decision: Reputable contractors will provide a written estimate that will be valid for weeks or months. If the great deal they are offering you today is not available tomorrow or next week, it may be a scam.
- No contract offered: Insist upon a written contract specifying in detail the work to be performed and the agreed upon price.
- Cash only sales: Most reputable contractors take checks or credit cards and do not require cash-only terms.
- Deals that seem to be good to be true: If the quoted price seems very low, chances are the quality of the work will be low as well.
- Unmarked truck: Often the trucks scam artists travel in are unmarked or they have an out of town address and phone number. A little research will likely reveal that they have no permanent address and the phone number is often an answering machine.
If you suspect you or someone you love is the victim of such fraud, call your local police department.