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Niles businesses fired up over scam

NILES, Mich. - Several small businesses in Niles feel like they’ve been scammed and are asking for justice.

It’s been more than nine months since an infamous conman in Wisconsin visited Berrien County promising to create and deliver custom, cartoon treasure maps but he hasn’t delivered.

In October 2011, ABC 57 News ran a story about Ed “Fast Eddy” Zapencki selling maps to small businesses under the name ‘Fun Treasure Maps’.

Word had in spread in October that Zapencki had a history of selling maps and not delivering in Wisconsin. Businesses called Niles City Police who said action could not be taken since Zapencki promised a delivery in six months.

“I didn’t get that delivery you said I was going to get,” Dennis Trowbridge said over the phone Tuesday. “I just want to let you know I’m hunting you down and so is everybody else in Niles, Michigan.”

Trowbridge owns The Hideaway bar in Niles. He has called Zapencki numerous times since April, when the promise of a map was broken. 

“People see it (and say) ‘Well, we’ve never been there before, we’ll try it out,” said Charlie Clark of the alleged scam. Clark owner of Charlie’s Colonial Bar was another business that bought into Zapencki’s pitch.

Clark said his wife, Becky, thought it would be a relatively inexpensive way to get new people to stop into the bar. “Apparently he talked pretty smooth to her so she fell for the ploy,” he said.

Zapencki charged $150 for a cartoon caricature on the map.

In February, Zapenski was sued by Wisconsin’s Attorney General and ordered to pay $250,000 for maps never delivered to hundreds of businesses. A spokesperson for the Wisconsin Attorney General’s office told ABC 57 News Tuesday that action could not be taken against Zapencki for out-of-state complaints.

“He’s a thief and a liar,” said Trowbridge. He’s not asking for his money back but doesn’t want anyone else to be fooled. “I just want the guy off the streets (and) out of business permanently.”

A spokesperson for Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette’s office told ABC 57 News complaints have been received but an investigation is not underway.

The Niles City Police Department was not immediately available for comment.

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