JEFFERSON — The owner of HP Fans Inc. and lead organizer of the Warriors & Wizards Festival in Jefferson is expected to face a criminal charge for allegations of multiple bounced checks and declined credit card authorizations in his name in excess of $50,000.
Scott W. Cramer, 59, Edgerton, is slated for an initial court appearance Monday, July 15, to face a charge of theft-false representation greater than $10,000, but not exceeding $100,000.
He faces a sentence of up to 10 years in prison or a fine of up to $25,000 if convicted.
In addition, he is facing a civil lawsuit filed by the City of Jefferson for his failure to reimburse the city for its investment in the festival.
The 2018 agreement with the city does include a personal guarantee, meaning that Cramer potentially could be personally liable for any debt HP Fans Inc. owes to the city.
Jefferson City Administrator Tim Freitag has acknowledged being aware of the festival’s fiscal issues prior to the Oct. 19-21 event.
Formerly referred to as Harry Potter Festival USA, the event organized by Cramer was rebranded as the broader Warriors & Wizards Festival in 2018 to avoid any infringement of Warner Bros.’ copyright. It had been held the previous two years in Jefferson (2017) and Edgerton (2016).
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 festival, held in October 2018, 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. The final total owed the city was $37,617, which included the $25,000 for marketing, as well as the related wages and materials for the city department employees.
Other than one payment of $6,000 received by the city on Nov. 5, 2018, no payments were received.
The Jefferson Common Council terminated the contract in January and directed city attorney Chris Rogers to take the first steps toward legal action. Following no response to a 30-day collection notice, the lawsuit was filed in May.
The 2018 festival appears to be the third time it operated in the red. No documentation has been submitted to the City of Jefferson to show the festival’s financial situation for 2018.
However, in both 2016 and 2017, records provided to the cities of Edgerton and Jefferson, respectively, indicate the event, then designated as a Harry Potter Festival, had operated at a deficit during its first two years of operation.
No action was taken by the city in 2018 to reimburse the businesses impacted by the bounced checks written by Cramer. However, Cramer allegedly wrote multiple checks that bounced due to insufficient funds, which is considered a criminal act.
An investigation into allegations of bounced checks, unpaid invoices and declined credit cards began almost immediately after the 2018 festival.
Jefferson Area Business Center owner Steve Lewis approached law enforcement authorities after Cramer’s $3,500 check for use of his facility failed to clear due to insufficient funds. The check had been presented to Lewis on Oct. 17, 2018.
Lewis said he took the check to the bank on Thursday, Oct. 18, and then didn’t hear until Tuesday, Oct. 23, that the check had not cleared.
Cramer acknowledged to investigators that he was the one who issued the check to the Jefferson Area Business Center.
‘A subpoena was issued to Fort Community Credit Union, where HP Fans, Inc where HP Fans, Inc. had a checking account. Records revealed that on Oct. 17, the balance in the account was $10,071.06 and that the following day, it had dropped to $1001.69. By Oct. 19, 2018, that figure was a negative $3,518.31 and it continued dropping to a negative balance of $17,218 by Oct. 22.
Further, in reviewing the checking account activity for the HP Fans Inc. account, investigators found that on Oct. 1, 2018, the checking account balance was $21,302.80 and on Oct. 29, it had a balance of negative $160.
Further, on Oct. 17, there was a $8,378.88 transfer from the checking to the savings account of HP Fans Inc., and that same day, a cashier’s check in that same amount was withdrawn from the savings account.
On Oct. 22, Cramer reportedly transferred the balance of his checking account — $2,650.70 — to his savings account. According to the complaint, he subsequently withdrew $2,650 in cash from the savings account.
Four checks totaling $19,596 posted on the checking account on Oct. 23 without sufficient funds.
There reportedly were some bank card deposits to the checking account totaling $808 on Oct. 24. All of those funds were transferred out of the checking account to savings.
Afterward, four more checks totaling $23,380.49 were returned due to insufficient funds.
On Nov. 21, 2018, Fort Atkinson police were dispatched to the Country Inn and Suites for a fraud complaint.
The hotel manager advised that Cramer and an associate had booked a large number of rooms at the hotel for the 2018 Wizards & Warriors Festival. When guests started checking out, there became an issue with the credit cards that were provided.
The initial bill for the entire block of rooms was $11,456.64 and, as guests started checking out and the hotel started applying the charges to the credit cards, the balance dropped to $8,311.82, which was the amount of the outstanding bill still due.
Cramer reportedly admitted to police that he had signed the credit card authorizations to the Country Inn and Suites, and that the name on the card, Norma Cramer, is that of his mother.
He told authorities that he had her consent to use the card for the Country Inn charges and believed the total was only going to amount to $3,500.
The complaint states that authorities also were advised by Jefferson County Administrator Ben Wehmeier that the Jefferson County Fair Park had received a check from Cramer in the amount of $4,130 on Oct. 18 to cover a deposit owed to the Fair Park prior to the 2018 Warriors & Wizards Festival. The check was returned due to insufficient funds on Oct. 29.
In addition, Cramer issued a check for $940 to CMC Media Inc., dba 104.5 Country WSLD FM in Jefferson, for advertising. The check was issued between Oct. 15 and18 and was unable to be cashed due to insufficient funds on Oct. 24.
According to the complaint, Red Square Audio LLC had been paid by check for all of audio, visual and lighting services associated with the festival. Cramer had written a $14,115 check for a 35-percent deposit. Red Square Audio’s owner contacted Fort Community Credit Union and was advised that HP Fans Inc. did not have funds to cover the check.
A representative from Kobussesn Buses Ltd. informed investigators of a $15,000 check that had been issued by Cramer as a deposit for the company’s shuttle bus services provided during the festival. The check was issued on Oct. 19 and was returned by the bank due to insufficient funds.
The complaint states that a certified letter sent to HP Fans Inc. by Kobussen demanding payment for the check was returned unclaimed.
On Dec. 3, the owner of the Americinn in Jefferson reported a similar concern about eight booked rooms at the hotel for a variety of days during the festival weekend. When the card was declined, the owner called Cramer, who reportedly said he did not have the credit card on him at that time, so he was unable to confirm the accuracy of the information that he had written on the credit card payment authorization form.
According to the criminal complaint, Cramer told the hotel owner he could call back with that information; however, he never followed through.
Another $499 reportedly to buy for seven gift baskets through Wine and Roses retail store also was declined on the same credit card.
A late-afternoon call to City Manager Freitag was not returned by deadline.