Two Charged in Newspaper Delivery Tips Grift
One suspect allegedly took an empty route sheet from a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel manager to pick homes where he had another man leave fake business cards for holiday tips.
Two men are facing charges for allegedly orchestrating a scheme to get tips from Milwaukee Journal Sentinel subscribers by pretending to be newspaper delivery carriers.
David S. Downer, 33, of Hartford, and Stephen C. Schumacher, 41, of the City of Pewaukee, were each charged in Waukesha County Circuit Court Monday with three counts of attempted theft by misrepresentation. If convicted, they each face up to 13 ½ months in prison and $15,000 in fines.
According to the criminal complaint:
On Dec. 4 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.
He said he didn’t really read the flyers until they were nearly all passed out.
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.”
Schumacher then told police he had a large amount of papers to deliver around Thanksgiving, but it was mainly to businesses. He said Downer then informed him he had a friend named Brad who had a carrier route, but after talking with him, Schumacher said this wasn’t the case because the guy didn’t know what he was talking about.
Schumacher said the three began talking about how carriers make $3,500 in tips around Christmas, so he took some open route sheets from work and gave them to Downer and had him hand out the flyers.
A manager at the distribution center for the Journal Sentinel said a route sheet had gone missing around Nov. 19. He said Downer didn’t work for the company and Schumacher isn’t a carrier and therefore shouldn’t have had a route list.
Both men will make their initial appearances in court May 7.