WAUKESHA — A familiar face to FOX6's Contact 6 is back. Complaints keep coming in against contractor Jeff Baum. Criminal charges have been filed against him, but a trial may not happen.
In September, Ann Siverling hired Baum as a contractor. Siverling needed bathroom repairs and few updates on her home in Waukesha. Siverling admits she didn't do her research before hiring Baum.
"I didn't do my due diligence," Siverling said.
A week-and-a-half into the project, her bathroom was partially demolished, but Silvering was fed up with his erratic schedule.
"He wasn't showing up. He was barely here," Siverling said.
Siverling decided to do some research and did a background check. She was shocked at what she found.
"Oh my gosh, I could not believe it," Siverling said.
Baum is facing a felony charge in Waukesha County for theft by contractor.
The charge is not connected to his contract with Siverling. Online court records show Baum owes several former clients money in civil cases.
"By the time all said and was done, we wrote him five checks for $3,289," Siverling said.
Siverling says Baum did little actual work. This is something Contact 6 has heard about Baum before.
In 2014, Baum left a high school classmate with a mess of a kitchen remodel. Contact 6 confronted Baum and he finished the job. At that time, he told Contact 6 it wouldn't happen again.
"I guess this is the mistake that I think was the last one," Baum told Contact 6 at the time.
One year later, three more women complained to Contact 6 about Baum citing similar issues his classmate had in 2014.
On December 16, 2016, Contact 6 caught up with Baum again.
"Can you tell us if you're still working as a contractor?" asked Contact 6 reporter Jenna Sachs.
"No, I'm not," Baum replied.
Baum told Contact 6 he's no longer working as a general contractor.
"I'm out of the trades. It's just headache after headache after headache," Baum said.
Baum went on to assure Contact 6 that he'd moved on.
"If I do get back into it years down the road, I'll never own a business again," Baum said.
However, Tina Hove says that was a lie. Hove showed Contact 6 a contract she signed with Baum to do work on her Milwaukee home.
"I gave him $300 cash down. Signed a contract on the 13th," Hove explained.
The contract was signed just three days before Baum told Contact 6 he was no longer working in the trades.
"I'm done and out of the trades. I'm done. I started a new career," Baum told Contact 6.
Three days after Baum spoke with Contact 6, Hove says she wrote Baum a check for $650 for a new fireplace. The check was cashed.
"That's the last time I saw him," Hove said.
Contact 6 put in an Open Records Request about Baum to the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) for all complaints since 2013. In return, Contact 6 received a 235 document including an investigation into Baum. It concludes Baum has a pattern of taking money for jobs and not finishing work.
Baum has never been convicted of theft by contractor. This doesn't surprise the Waueksha County District Attorney Susan Opper.
"Overall, I'd say it's pretty rare," Opper said.
Opper says most theft by contractor cases are settled before they go to trial because they're hard to prove.
"It's literally sorting through pages and pages of bank records and transactions, trying to determine the money trail and where it went and what it was used for," Opper explained.
Opper says it's not a crime to be a bad carpenter or to be a bad businessman. She says it is a crime to take money for one reason and intentionally use it for another.
"So that can be bad when they say, 'Geez, I didn't mean to do it. I just got in over my head and I had these bills to pay and I just started taking all the money from one pool, and throwing over here ad there.' And, that's a defense in these cases," Opper said.
Baum admits he got in over his head.
"I'm a good worker, but when it comes down to it, managing a job, doing paperwork, collecting and estimates and doing the job on your own, it's a headache," Baum said.
Now, only time will tell whether this is the last time Contact 6 hears about Baum.
"Is this going to be our last story about you?" Jenna Sachs asked.
"Yes, I'm hoping. I'm hoping," Baum responded.
Siverling hopes so too.
"I don't want this to happen to anyone else," Siverling said.
As a condition of bond for the felony charge, Baum is not allowed to enter into contracts like the one he made with Hove.
The Waukesha County district attorney is considering charges against Baum is Siverling's case and Milwaukee County is weighing charges in Hove's cases.
Baum blames Contact 6 for his problems calling this "pile up" caused by "media drama."
If you're looking to hire a contractor, here's some tips:
- Google the contractor's name
- Check to see if there are any complaints with DATCP and/or the Better Business Bureau
Once you've hired a contractor, keep these things in mind:
- Never pay in full before a job is complete
- Make sure you get a detailed contract with a start and end date
You can get more tips from DATCP — HERE.