Crime

Contractor Indicted by Grand Jury on 12 Counts of Wire Fraud, Money Laundering

Craig Mark Draper is charged with operating a construction fraud scheme in 2017 and 2018; Flathead Valley victims express relief over long-awaited indictment

By Myers Reece
Marsha Shepard shows damage at her Kalispell home in 2019. Shepard said she lost the bulk of her life savings to Craig Draper and had been living with water damage and mold due to Draper’s faulty work. Beacon File Photo

A construction contractor previously convicted of felonies in Wyoming over a decade ago for defrauding customers has been indicted by a federal grand jury on 12 new counts for running a similar scheme more recently in Montana, with most of his activity focused in the Flathead Valley in 2017 and 2018.

The federal indictment for Craig Mark Draper was filed April 28 in U.S. District Court in Missoula for 10 counts of wire fraud and two counts of money laundering for executing “a material scheme and artifice to defraud, and for obtaining money by means of material false and fraudulent pretenses, representations, promises, and omissions, and in doing so caused wire communications to be transmitted in interstate commerce.”

The wire fraud charges carry penalties of up to 20 years in prison, $250,000 in fines and three years of supervised release. The money laundering charges carry penalties of up to 10 years in prison, $250,000 in fines and three years of supervised release.

Draper’s arraignment is scheduled for May 24 in U.S. District Court in Missoula. It wasn’t immediately clear whether he’s in custody.

The Beacon initially reported on Draper’s construction activity in 2019, including interviews with victims in the Flathead Valley who were members of a Facebook page for Draper victims that exceeded 150 people. 

Some victims said they had lost their life savings and homes, and many described harassment and threats by Draper in addition to fraud. One was awarded nearly $450,000 in damages by Flathead County District Court, with little expectation of collecting the funds. Total losses were estimated to be in the millions.

The victims expressed frustration at the time, in April 2019, that Draper hadn’t been charged, and in lieu of criminal charges, numerous civil complaints were filed in Flathead County District Court, including a series of complaints filed by the Department of Labor and Industry for lost wages on behalf of former employees.

One of the victims, Theressa Crosby, who has spent years compiling evidence on Draper and became an advocate for other victims, said on May 3 that she had given up hope for justice because of how long the investigation took. Hearing news of the indictment made her “ecstatic.”

“I am just on cloud nine,” Crosby said. “I know I’m not going to get any of my money back. None of the victims are going to get any of their money back. But the relief after three years that the victims are going to get some kind of justice, even if it’s a little bit, it lets us know we weren’t forgotten.”

Crosby maintains a binder with 850 pages of evidence building a case of Draper’s alleged widespread fraudulent activity and operates the Facebook group for Draper victims. The binder includes bid proposals, invoices, falsified licensing and insurance documents, bankruptcy letters, bank statements, background checks, text message exchanges, social media posts, letters, photos and more. She turned the evidence over to the FBI.

Theressa Crosby compiled a binder with more than 850 pages of evidence documenting Craig Draper’s alleged fraudulent construction activities. Beacon File Photo

Despite her excitement over the indictment, Crosby said she is currently preparing to sell her house, which, after the money lost to Draper, repairs fixing his damage, refinancing and credit card debt, has become too much of a financial burden.

“This was our retirement home, but we just can’t afford it,” she said. “So at 59 years old, I’m going to have to work until the day I die to pay for all of this. If we had not been scammed by him, we’d be doing OK. It’s very sad.”

The April 28 indictment mirrors the specific complaints of individual victims, accusing Draper, who operated as ADI Builders and other businesses, of receiving “money from customers in exchange for his promise to provide certain materials and perform certain work.”

“Instead of providing the promised materials and performing the promised work, Draper used the money for unrelated business and personal expenses, including expenditures associated with leasing and operating a racetrack,” according to court charging documents. “To further execute the material scheme and artifice to defraud, Draper failed to pay vendors for construction materials and failed to fully compensate the employees engaged in the construction business.”

The racetrack reference presumably refers to his stint as operator of the now-named Mission Valley Super Oval in Polson, where members of the car-racing community said he perpetuated a multi-faceted fraud in addition to his construction scheme, bilking untold thousands of dollars from sponsors, suppliers, vendors and racers before disappearing in late 2018, which is when homeowners also say he ditched town.

The court documents identify 10 transactions constituting wire fraud from Nov. 1, 2017 to Oct. 24, 2018 at several different Flathead Valley banks, ranging from $1,500 to $59,002. The indictment also identifies two separate instances in November 2017 of money laundering in which Draper “knowingly engaged in a monetary transaction involving property” with values of $25,884 and $59,000, with “such money having been derived from specified unlawful activity” of wire fraud.

Draper was charged with four felonies for nearly identical contractor-related crimes in 2005 and 2006 in Sweetwater County, Wyoming and convicted of conspiracy and obtaining property by false pretenses, according to court records. 

Victims have described Draper as a smooth talker who always had an answer for any question and presented himself as a seasoned construction veteran. They said he would ask for a down payment for materials and then arrive to pick up the check before disappearing or performing enough work, or pretending to do the work, to seem like he was following through, hoping to collect another check based on a manufactured reason.

Upon request, Draper would provide documentation showing he was licensed, insured and bonded, but victims later found out the paperwork was falsified. Even as red flags emerged, homeowners said he had a knack for explaining everything, and by that point they were indebted to him through payments and perhaps work already started.

“I’m astounded by the number of ways he had to take your money,” a Lakeside resident said in 2019.

Crosby won’t be fully comforted until she knows Draper is in custody, but she’s thrilled to see a day that she had started to think would never come.

“Putting him in prison doesn’t pay everybody back or make everybody whole,” she said. “But it is justice. It prevents him from doing this to other people.”

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