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CBS 58 Investigates uncovers a contractor's criminal past that local prosecutors missed

CBS 58 Investigates uncovered new details about the criminal past of a contractor that Wisconsin prosecutors didn’t know about.

For nearly two years CBS 58 investigated claims against David Ward, also known as “Pastor Dave,” a contractor ripping off customers, leading to multiple charges and convictions.

He is now on probation in Ozaukee and Winnebago counties and owes more than $40,000 to victims across Wisconsin.

After CBS 58 Investigates reported Ward was sentenced to probation in November, we got several calls from viewers saying they too are victims. So we looked deeper in to Ward and found a criminal record prosecutors in three Wisconsin counties missed.

“I am sincerely and humbly sorry,” Ward said in court in November, ahead of his sentencing on a felony theft charge.

Ward took $12,000 from a Winnebago county couple for contracting work he never even started.

“What’s the prior record here?” the judge asked the prosecutors before handing down the sentence.

Prosecutor Anthony Prekop told the judge, Ward has one prior conviction, a misdemeanor in Ozaukee County. Prekop also said he got a lot of calls from people about Ward’s so-called contracting business.

“I don’t know his business background, I don’t know his business practices, other than what I’ve seen in this case.” Prekop said in court “I don’t know how widespread this is.”

Ward got probation in Winnebago County, but CBS 58 Investigates dug in to his past and found there’s much more that a misdemeanor on his record. The con actually started two decades ago in Illinois. In Pekin, IL, victims say “Pastor Dave” ran the same scam using a different name.

“He went by Buck, Buck Ward,” said Cora, a victim of Ward’s who didn’t want to share her last name.

We tracked down some of Ward’s Illinois victims and started compiling mugshots and court records. We discovered Ward’s crimes span across central Illinois, dating back to the 1990s. It was always the same story.

“He was very knowledgeable, very charming,” Cora said.

“Very charming, very pleasant, seemed like he knew what he was doing,” echoed Linda Cameron, another victim of Ward’s.

Ward claims to be a contractor, trying to start up a new business, he takes the money and then takes off.

In 1998 he was convicted of forgery and home repair fraud in Woodford County, IL. In 1999 he was convicted in McLean County, IL. That same year, in Tazewell County, IL Ward convicted on several more felony counts. He was sentenced to 3 years, but after serving his time, he was back at it.

“It kind of makes me panicky thinking about it,” Cora said.

In 2001 Ward took thousands from Cora.

“All calls were no longer answered and we now had a big mess and lots of damage to our home and our down payment gone,” Cora said.

That same year Cameron gave Ward a deposit for new windows and then never heard from him.

“It seems to he’s established quite a lengthy pattern of doing the same thing and the consequences don’t seem to bother him,” Cameron said.

Cameron and Cora both won civil suits, but Ward never gave them a penny.

In 2002 Ward was convicted again in Tazewell County, on seven more felony counts. And this time his victims included an 86-year-old man. Ward was sentenced to seven-and-a-half years in the Illinois Department of Corrections, and after he got out, he still didn’t stop.

“I think it’s kind of one of those things where a leopard doesn’t change his spots,” Cameron said.

Ward moved to Wisconsin, where he started calling himself “Pastor Dave:” a horse trainer, who runs a contracting company, Man of Steel Roofing.

“He was really charming, starting up a new business, we thought we’d help him out,” said Linda Wachholz, Ward’s Winnebago County, WI victim.

We told Wachholz what we uncovered.

“David Ward has over 12 felony convictions in the state of Illinois,” CBS 58 investigative reporter Kristen Barbaresi told Wacholz.

“12?” Wacholz, asked, shocked. “And this guy is still out there doing the same thing?”

The Winnebago and Ozaukee County prosecutors who handled Ward’s two Wisconsin cases tell CBS 58 they didn’t know about Ward’s Illinois convictions but declined to comment further.

“That is upsetting because if that was known when we were in court with him, I would think the judge would see this guy is a habitual offender and maybe would’ve sent him to prison right away,” Wacholz said.

We gave Ward multiple chances to explain himself. On our first attempt, no one came to the door, and when we went back the next day, he had put up no trespassing signs. We asked for comment from public property. Ward hid behind a tree and took our picture.

We finally reached him over the phone and he told us, “No comment.” Ward’s attorney also declined to comment.

“He needs to be stopped and he needs to be put away,” Wacholz said.

Ward has one more open case in Waukesha County. During CBS 58’s investigation, we reached out to the district attorney, Susan Opper, who said they didn’t know about Ward’s Illinois record but would look into it.

A few days later, Opper said in a statement, “We were able to confirm these prior cases for Mr. Ward in IL. The ADA working the case has modified our sentence recommendation based on this information.”

Ward will be back in court January 29.

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