Two men who tried to grift money from area residents by posing as Milwaukee Journal Sentinel carriers during the 2011 holiday season will spend this year's season in jail.
David S. Downer, 34, of Hartford, and Stephen C. Schumacher, 42, of City of Pewaukee, were each sentenced Monday to jail with work-release and probation for trying to swindle unearned tips from residents.
Prosecutors asked Waukesha County Circuit Judge Patrick Haughney to give each man 60 days in jail. But Haughney instead gave Downer 75 days in jail and two years probation because he has a prior criminal record, while Schumacher got 21 days in jail and nine months probation.
Both men were convicted of three misdemeanor counts of attempted theft by misrepresentation. Downer pleaded guilty to the charges; Schumacher pleaded no contest.
Haughney said he was concerned about Downer's behavior because after being charged in the newspaper fraud case Downer also was charged with third offense operating while intoxicated and bail jumping in Washington County.
Defendant tried to "take a shortcut in life"
"I apologize," Downer said. "I attempted to take a shortcut in life. I'm obviously paying for it now."
On Dec. 4, 2011, a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel newspaper carrier contacted Brookfield police after he saw Downer placing cards stuffed with flyers in mailboxes. The flyers said, "It has been a pleasure delivering papers," and wished subscribers a joyous holiday season. The flyers also contained Downer's name and a mailing address later tracked back to a Pewaukee UPS Store location.
The newspaper alerted subscribers the cards were a scam and warned them to not send money. However, within the next several days, several people in Elm Grove reported they had sent checks to the address.
Investigators searched Downer's mailbox at the UPS Store and found 22 cards which had been sent within a week of the flyers and contained a total of $678.
Police talked to Downer on Dec. 12 and he admitted to putting the flyers on the mailboxes, saying he was attempting to get business for a process serving company he was trying to start. He said he got the cards from his brother-in-law Schumacher, who also gave him $50 to rent the mailbox.
The next day police executed a search warrant on Schumacher's residence in the W22600 block of Cabot Circle and found reams of paper matching the flyers and a route list.
Schumacher sat down for an interview with investigators and started the conversation by saying "I just wanted to start this off by saying I bought the cards, I bought the paper, I wrote the letter and I stuffed the envelopes in front of the cops at Starbucks."
Although he was described as "the brains of the operation" by prosecutors, Schumacher's attorney asked that his client not be given jail time because it was his first offense and he was very sorry for what occurred. He said Schumacher also works as a social media manager for an area marketing company and his clients need him available 24 hours per day.
While Haughney didn't grant the request, he did mention how social media could play a role in getting the word out about the crime and work as a possible deterrent to others thinking of perpetrating the same crime as opposed to people simply reading about a crime in the newspaper.
Schumacher also said he was sorry for the incident, which has been very difficult given the media attention it garnered and the effect it had on his professional life.
"What I did was shameful for a person of my character," he said.