JEFFERSON — More than a year after the 2018 Warriors and Wizards Festival made more than $50,000 disappear, organizer Scott. W. Cramer has been sentenced to jail time and probation on one count of theft-false representation.
Cramer, 59, of Beloit, entered a no-contest plea to the felony charge Thursday morning and Jefferson County Circuit Court Judge William Gruber found him guilty.
Gruber sentenced Cramer with two years’ imprisonment and three years on extended supervision.
The judge then stayed this sentence and placed Cramer on probation for three years.
The terms of probation call for 30 days in the Jefferson County Jail with Huber work-release privileges. They also order him to comply with assessment, counseling and treatment; to maintain employment or enrollment in an educational program; and to not operate, organize or be employed for any Wizard and Warriors Festival or similar entertainment event.
“The court is considering Mr. Cramer’s character that’s coloring the court’s outcome here significantly,” Judge Gruber said. “As well as the remorse that’s expressed nonverbally and verbally here, the court does believe that Mr. Cramer has taken virtually all the responsibility that can be taken after the act has been committed. The court does believe the probability of reoffense in either a financial crime context or other criminal context is exceedingly unlikely.”
Cramer’s plea came as a negotiated agreement between District Attorney Susan Happ and defense attorney Scott Wales.
Happ said the sentence the two parties agreed to was enough to satisfy all the needs of the community.
“As you can tell from the criminal complaint, there were multiple victims owed an extremely high restitution,” Happ said. “It emphasizes how significant it was. This consequence is sufficient to address the nature and consequence of the conduct.”
The agreement stipulated to by both attorneys had included 45 days in jail, but Gruber set the jail time at 30 days. Happ said this amount of jail time — for someone who has no prior criminal record — would be enough.
“It is a really good deterrent,” Happ said. “It’s a long time to sit in jail for him to think about the conduct.”
The plea agreement does not include any restitution because Cramer reportedly has paid all outstanding debts related to the charges in full.
Cramer and his wife, Cheryl, were forced to sell their house and take money out of 401K accounts to pay back the money owed, Wales said.
He said during the sentencing hearing that the information in the criminal complaint was “substantially true.”
The complaint showed that Cramer issued more than $50,000 in bounced checks and declined credit card authorizations related to the 2018 event, which was negatively affected by inclement weather.
From October to December of 2018, bad checks and credit card payments were given to the Jefferson Area Business Center, Bon Ton Bakery, Jefferson County Fair Park, 104.5 Country WSLD FM, Red Square Audio, Kobussen Buses, Americinn, Wine and Roses retail store and Country Inn and Suites.
In a number of these incidents, Cramer reportedly admitted to Detective Leah Meyer of the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office that he had issued the bad checks. Cramer’s signature also matched that on several of the checks, and the last four numbers of a credit card used by Cramer were the same in a number of cases, according to the complaint.
Wales said in court Thursday that Cramer has paid back $73,359.32 to 14 parties that were owed. There were some parties owed money not included on the criminal complaint, he noted.
Wales read two letters about Cramer’s conduct, one from Cramer himself and the other from his wife. As her letter was read in court, Cramer stared at the floor as his wife began to cry.
“Scott fully acknowledges and accepts the responsibility, that he violated the law by writing those uncovered checks,” Cheryl’s letter read. “To address the financial obligations from the festival, Scott and I have depleted all known and available resources to us. Before my eyes I see each day, my husband’s tormented face and body as he struggles with this horrific wrong that he owns and is diligently working very hard to correct.”
In his own letter, which was read by Wales, Cramer expressed remorse for what he’d done.
“I was wrong. Please forgive me,” Cramer wrote. “I realize writing checks in the hopes they would be covered was illegal and disrespectful. I recognize and acknowledge my wrongdoing. This has caused myself and my family much embarrassment.”
Cramer was ordered by Gruber to report to the Jefferson County Jail by 9 p.m. Friday night.
Meanwhile, Cramer also faces a civil lawsuit from the City of Jefferson for his failure to reimburse the city for its investment in Warriors and Wizards Fest. Under the contract with the city, Cramer or HP Fans Inc. was to reimburse the city for its initial $25,000 investment toward marketing expenses for the 2018 festival, as well as for the city’s expenditures related to hosting the event, such as wages, materials and supplies for various municipal departments employed over the three days.
Jefferson City Administrator Tim Freitag said that settlement discussions are ongoing, so the civil lawsuit has not been resolved yet.
Cramer, the owner of HP Fans Inc., originally was charged with theft-false representation greater than $10,000, but not exceeding $100,000. Prior to the plea deal, he faced a sentence of up to 10 years in prison or a fine of up to $25,000 if convicted.
Formerly referred to as the Harry Potter Festival USA, the event was rebranded to the Warriors and Wizards Festival in 2018, taking place Oct. 19-21, 2018. It had been held the previous two years in Jefferson (2017) and Edgerton (2016).