WHITEFISH BAY — Former friends and business partners of a Whitefish Bay barber are coming forward to explain how he conned them out of hundreds of thousands of dollars. David Foley is a self-described ‘master barber,’ but a FOX6 investigation finds he is also a master of manipulation.
“He was such a smooth talker,” said Rick Bystra, who invested more than $55,000 of his own money to help Foley open up a sports-themed barbershop on Silver Spring Drive.
Originally from Florida, Foley has been grooming financial victims all over southeastern Wisconsin for years.
“He builds a relationship,” says Lance Gordon, a Glendale CPA who was hired to keep an eye on the barbershop’s books. “He looks at somebody and figures them out real quick.”
FOX6′s investigation finds that Foley created the illusion that he was a wealthy entrepreneur. He often drove luxury cars that other people had paid for, and he would rent homes in well-to-do neighborhoods, then tell others that he owned the home. It was an image that some of his victims say he used to convince them it was safe to invest with him.
“It`s a done deal, the guy is affluent.” said Brian Weaver, who invested more than $100,000 to open up the first Sport N Cuts barbershop in Brookfield in 2006.
Foley cut hair and ran the shop day-to-day, but it was Weaver who paid the bills, and he tells FOX6 Investigators that Foley racked up thousands of dollars in personal expenses on a company credit card. When Weaver confronted him about the questionable expenses, he says Foley went to court and talked the judge into issuing a retraining order that kept Weaver from entering his own business.
“Oh my God almighty!” Weaver said. “It was just mind-boggling.”
Weaver found out the hard way that David Foley is a con man with a criminal record that spans more than three decades. He’s been convicted at least ten times for identity theft, fraud, forgery and issuing worthless checks, but the most serious charges yet stem from events that took place after he opened a new Sport N Cuts barbershop in Whitefish Bay in 2010.
Gordon – the CPA watching over the books – says Foley was terrible with money.
“He would always spend way, way more than was coming in,” Gordon recounted.
Gordon says Foley used the barbershop to recruit new members for one of his many multi-level marketing ventures, selling energy drinks, weight loss coffee and pre-paid legal services.
“What do barbers do? They talk. What are people complaining about? They don`t have any money,” Gordon says. “‘I know a way you can make some.’ He had it down to an art.”
Foley took advantage of some of those recruits, using their credit cards without their knowledge, but his biggest financial victim may have been the man who bankrolled the barbershop.
Rick Bystra poured his life savings into Sport N Cuts, in part, because of false claims Foley made about a financial windfall that was coming his way. Between 2008 and 2009, Foley served time in prison after his probation was revoked by mistake. Foley sued the state for false imprisonment and, in 2010, he received a $136,000 settlement. That much is true. According to federal court records, however, Foley doctored the settlement letter to make it appear he was actually due $1.2 million. He then allegedly used the falsified settlement documents to convince Bystra his investment would be safe.
“He said even if the barbershop doesn`t make it, I’ve got over a million dollars coming,” said Gordon.
“So, it was pretty much a no-brainer,” said Bystra.
The financial windfall never came. Instead, Foley continued to write a series of bad checks on accounts that had long since been closed. Some of the accounts didn’t even exist. In one case, Foley convinced Bystra to come along with him to the bank to deposit a $10,000 check. Bystra, in turn, gave Foley $7,000 to pay off his medical bills. The $10,000 check turned out to be a fake.
“It was apparent that he was involved in what appeared to me to be a check kiting scheme,” said Bruce Landgraf, Assistant District Attorney in Milwaukee County.
Landgraf has been probing Foley’s misdeeds since 2006, when he was accused of election fraud for voting as a felon while still serving his sentence. When the DA attempted to compare Foley’s election signature to signatures in his bank records, the election fraud investigation quickly expanded into a massive check fraud investigation.
Landgraf has since prosecuted Foley on multiple occasions, once describing him as “the quintessential confidence man… with an insatiable desire for easy money.” But even Landgraf could not have predicted what would happen next.
“I think he said, `When this comes out this is going to be all over the news,’” Gorden tells FOX6.
In August of 2010, Foley is accused of sending an anonymous letter to the FOX6 Investigators, along with an unlabeled DVD. The letter claimed that the DVD was discovered in a dumpster behind a commercial building in Whitefish Bay – the same building that housed Sport N Cuts.
That building is owned by a man named Andrew Garrison, and the DVD sent to FOX6 contained a single folder labeled, “Andy Garrison Private Files.” Inside the folder were dozens of graphic images of young boys engaged in sex acts.
FOX6 News turned the letter and disc over to a state agent with the Wisconsin Department of Justice, who eventually traced them back to Foley. In a report to a federal judge, the agent wrote that it appeared Foley was trying to frame Garrison.
“He, in effect, tried to create the image that Mr. Garrison, Andrew Garrison, was a possessor of child pornography and perhaps worse than that,” said Landgraf.
Garrison was Foley’s landlord for the Sport N Cuts barbershop, and federal records show Foley owed Garrison $55,000 in unpaid rent. Garrison had also been gathering up written statements from other financial victims of Foley’s and taking them to the DA. Landgraf says Foley’s attempted frame job was an effort to discredit one of his most aggressive accusers.
“Mr. Foley was intent on making me and the judge who sentenced him in the 2008 case believe that Mr. Garrison was not credible,” said Landgraf.
The plan backfired. State investigators not only traced the child pornography back to Foley, but the investigation ultimately led to two young boys who claim that Foley molested them.
“This man is quite frankly the personification of the devil as far as I am concerned,” said Weaver.
The news came as a particular shock to Weaver, who still believed one of Foley’s tallest tales of all.
“He has his own two sons,” Weaver said, in trying to come to grips with how Foley could harm young children. “You know, he had two boys.”
For years, Foley had told his friends and business partners that he was a widowed father of two young boys. However, when justice agents probed into his background, they found that Foley has never been married and has no children of his own.
“Oh my god in heaven,” Weaver exclaimed, his mouth agape.
Foley is now facing state charges of bail jumping and federal charges of producing and distributing child pornography, as well as transporting a minor across state lines to commit a sex act.
Meanwhile, Rick Bystra is trying to pick up the pieces of his shattered dreams, struggling to tell his own kids why they can’t afford life’s little luxuries.
“You try to be strong when you are talking to them, but your heart bleeds,” Bystra said. “It hurts.”
Bystra just wishes he’d never met David Foley.
“He was a great barber,” Bystra recalled. “He was just not a good person.”