A cottage country contractor has been arrested for fraud by the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP). He is accused of defrauding property owners out of thousands of dollars through renovation scams.
The 51-year-old Scott “Scottie” Eisemann, who operated the company Cottage Life Construction (no affiliation with Cottage Life Media) out of the Muskoka area, has been charged with three counts of fraud over $5,000 and two counts of obtaining money by false pretence.
These charges involved four separate incidents that occurred in November 2020 and February 2021, across Ontario, including Midland, Ramara, and Oro-Medonte, according to Orillia OPP constable Ted Dongelmans.
“Several of the [fraud charges] have been for contracts of service that were not completed,” Dongelmans says. The incidents also involved Eisemann paying a contractor for completed work with a fraudulent check, and using fraudulent information to obtain a loan.
This isn’t Eisemann’s first run-in with the law, either. When arrested, Eisemann was already awaiting trial for two counts of fraud over $5,000 and two counts of possession of property obtained by crime over $5,000, which he committed in August and September of 2020.
Eisemann’s first conviction, however, was in July 2014 when he defrauded a legally blind, 92-year-old Toronto woman out of more than $130,000. Eisemann visited the woman’s Etobicoke home and convinced her that it was in need of immediate repair. During the trial, the judge ruled that the repairs were unnecessary and sentenced Eisemann to two years in prison.
More recently, Liz Saunders and her Bracebridge family cottage were the targets of Eisemann’s fraud schemes. Saunders’ cottage, which was built by her grandfather in 1931, was in need of some foundation work. In 2018, she started looking for a contractor to tackle the job.
“A lot of the contractors that I spoke to wanted to tear it down and build something new. But I didn’t want something new,” Saunders says. “I wanted my grandfather’s cottage.”
At a trade show in Gravenhurst, she came across Eisemann and the Cottage Life Construction booth. She liked what he had to say, and assumed that the booth meant the company was legitimate. But as an extra precaution, she did her due diligence.
Saunders Googled Eisemann’s name to check into his background. The only problem was, Eisemann had given her a fake last name. He told her he was Scott Evan. “You can’t Google someone who’s last name you don’t know,” Saunders says.
Eisemann has been known to use the last names Evan, Daniel, David, and his middle name, Davids, when working with clients.
Since nothing came up on Google for “Scott Evan”, Saunders checked the Better Business Bureau, and asked friends in the real estate and building crowd about Cottage Life Construction—which was founded in 2016, after Eisemann served his prison sentence for the 2014 conviction. No red flags surfaced. She even contacted a Toronto artist she was familiar with who was quoted on Eisemann’s website. The artist said he’d known Scottie for a number of years and that he was a good guy.
Saunders decided it was safe to proceed, and signed a contract with Eisemann for the foundation work in 2018.
From that point forward, Saunders says she was met with a flurry of excuses from Eisemann as to why he couldn’t complete the work. “The excuse in the fall of 2018 was that we ran out of weather,” she says. “In 2019, it was the flood and he said he couldn’t get his trucks down my road. And then he didn’t want to do it in the summer because that would ruin my summer. The fall of 2019, it was, oh, I can’t book the guy that’s going to do the lift because they’re so busy.”
In the meantime, Eisemann was asking Saunders for money to cover expenses. He told her he’d lift her cottage himself, but needed $7,500 to buy the equipment. After paying him, Eisemann changed his story, saying he was able to book the company to do the lift, but couldn’t return the $7,500 because he’d given it to them as a deposit.
Other issues presented themselves along the way, such as a promised building permit that had never been filed with the local planning committee, and a first architect who was fired and never paid, only to be replaced by a second one.
By this point, Saunders was growing concerned. “He was already into me for so much money, I couldn’t really back out.”
Then, in the summer of 2020, the lift company arrived at Saunders’ cottage and raised it onto wooden blocks. But that was as far as the work got. Almost a year later, Saunders’ cottage is still sitting on blocks with no foundational work complete.
It wasn’t until she received a phone call from the wife of the man who had done the excavation work under her cottage for Eisemann that her fears were solidified. The wife revealed to Saunders that the contractor’s real name was Scottie Eisemann, and that he’d never paid her husband for the work he’d done. “I almost threw up on my table,” Saunders says.
The OPP are looking into charging Eisemann on Saunders’ behalf. But initially Saunders was told that she couldn’t charge Eisemann with criminal fraud because he had completed some work for her. “All you have to do is come out and dig a hole,” Saunders says.
The OPP told her she could bring a civil litigation suit against him, but this route hit a dead-end as Cottage Life Construction filed for bankruptcy last year.
However, in light of the complex business dealings between Saunders and Eisemann, the OPP are reassessing her case.
In the meantime, to get her cottage taken off of blocks and receive the repairs it needs, Saunders is planning to start a GoFundMe page.
“We have to stop this guy,” she says of Eisemann. “That’s my biggest thing.”