First Alert Investigation finds more legal woes for ex-car salesman charged in federal probe

Updated: Jul. 21, 2021 at 6:00 PM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

NORTHEAST WISCONSIN, Wis. (WBAY) - A Northeast Wisconsin man charged in federal court for conspiracy to commit fraud related to consignment car dealerships is facing more legal trouble in connection to unrelated businesses.

John Solberg was arrested and charged in November of 2019 after a multi-year investigation into his businesses Standard Pre-Owned and Backwoods Bargains in Suamico and Kaukauna. Investigators say he forged titles and sold cars but kept money instead of paying the owners of the vehicles.

Solberg is scheduled to appear in front of a federal judge Thursday for a change of plea hearing. He’s previously pleaded not guilty to the charges.

First Alert Investigation has discovered information connecting Solberg to new businesses. Some customers say they have had issues with their projects. For months, we’ve received calls from people saying they hired a new roofing company to do work that was not done to their liking or led to the need for costly repairs. Others told us they worked for the business and were threatened and too afraid to talk to us on camera

First Alert Investigation started digging and found lawsuits and court cases under different business names. These cases have a connection: the name John Solberg.

For over a decade, we have reported on multiple businesses, run by John Solberg, resulting in legal trouble for him and countless customers alleging they were cheated out of money.

It started in the late 2000s with Solberg’s Green Bay bar Vicenzi’s. It closed after several fights and city law violations.

Solberg soon turned to car sales, operating Backwoods Bargains and Standard Pre-Owned.

Hundreds of complaints led to a local, state and federal investigation into the consignment dealership alleging Solberg would sell cars for people but keep the money and forge titles on vehicles.

Solberg was arrested in 2019. A federal grand jury returned an indictment against John Solberg on 15 counts of fraud.

Solberg entered not guilty pleas to the charges and a judge released him on bond under conditions he not violate federal, state or local laws; not secure any loan or financing without court permission; and not have any contact with customers or employees of his car dealerships or Summit Contracting.

First Alert Investigation has reported extensively on Summit Contracting, which is under federal investigation for an alleged scheme to defraud financial institutions and customers by taking their money without completing work.

We found no stipulation preventing Solberg from operating a new business.

Eighteen days after Solberg’s release on bond, a new business called New Heights Roofing, Inc. was incorporated and registered with the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions. The agency does not list a business owner by name, which is common. However, we received repeated viewer phone calls asking us to look into the business. We did.

The New Heights Roofing, Inc. website lists no physical address for the business. There’s no owner or team member names given. A local phone number is listed. We called it and John Solberg answered.

Solberg tells us he’s an employee of New Heights Roofing, Inc. and the company is run board of directors and shareholders.

Online searches for New Heights Roofing in Wisconsin, the only state in which the company operates, according to Solberg, directs us to an address in Suamico. Tax and court records show that’s John Solberg’s home address.

First Alert Investigation asked Solberg why an employee’s address would show up there. Solberg says that’s an issue with websites he’s trying to resolve.

The same address is listed for a company called 1st Contracting. We could not find a website for the business or very many other details about it. Solberg tells us he owns it and started it before he left his job at Summit Contracting.

First Alert Investigation found a case against 1st Contracting and John Solberg filed in 2020 in New York. A judge ordered payment of more than $23,000 to Kodiak Funding. Lawyers argued Solberg did not hold up his end of a financing agreement dating back to 2019.

Solberg says the money has since been paid.

In June, a Sheboygan County couple filed a lawsuit against New Heights Roofing alleging a breach of contract. They claim they hired the company to replace their roof, gutters and vents last summer, but the work has not been completed. The suit alleges widespread defects requiring the roofing system to be replaced.

The homeowners tell First Alert Investigation they’ve been trying to resolve this with Solberg for months.

Solberg tells us the issue was “resolved satisfactory to both parties” as of Tuesday, July 20.

First Alert Investigation: “How much have you been dealing with New Heights and with John Solberg?”

Russ Burie (purchased roof from New Heights Roofing, Inc.): “More than I care to ... yeah, for sure, but the squeaky wheel gets the grease.”

Russ Burie says New Heights came knocking at his Door County property last winter and he took what he thought was a good deal. Burie credits the crew for working on a difficult project in harsh winter conditions. The roof isn’t leaking, but he’s asking for more work to be done.

“It’s done for the most part,” Burie says. “There’s some cosmetic work, little pieces of the siding that may have been cracked, a couple screens.”

Solberg says the company will fix Burie’s roof and anyone else who has an issue. He tells us “all that matters” is that “the customer’s happy.”

Solberg pointed out several positive reviews posted online and shared testimonials from happy customers, including a man who got a roof for free after Solberg says New Heights accidentally tore part of a roof off the wrong house.

Solberg’s federal case involving Standard Pre-Owned is listed for a Change of Plea Hearing Thursday afternoon.

Solberg tells First Alert Investigation he has $150,000 ready to pay back the victims in that case. He says he’s earned the money since being arrested in 2019. He credits hard work and his faith.

Action 2 News will keep you updated on developments in this story.

Copyright 2021 WBAY. All rights reserved.