Map maker "Fast Eddie" scams small business owners

Like any good salesman, Ed Zapencki knows sometimes you've just got to get your foot in the door. But when the FOX 6 Investigators managed to stick on in his, he slammed the door shut.

Colleen Elvin only wishes she had done the same back in March when Zapencki first stepped foot in her Port Washington Salon.

"I was working and he just came in one day," says Elvin.

He didn't have an appointment, just a friendly smile and a sales pitch.

Ed convinced Elvin to place an ad in one of his "Fun Treasure Maps," cartoon-style maps designed to promote the mom-and-pop shops in a local community.

"I thought it would be fun to have my husband's and my face on there," she said.

Elvin paid $150 in cash and traded another $200 in salon products and services for Ed's wife and daughter. In return, she got a pink sheet of paper that said she'd paid in full. The sheet didn't say when the maps would be delivered.

When Ed told Elvin the maps would be ready in time for Port Washington's summer tourist season, she took him at his word.

But July came and went without any maps. Then August. Then September.

By the time she called the number on the business card Ed left behind, the tourists were gone.

It seems Zapencki has suckered small business owners from Two Rivers to Lake Geneva and everywhere in between. He's peddled his maps in Fond du Lac, Oshkosh, Manitowoc, Kenosha, Sheboygan, Green Bay, Sister Bay, Wausau, Belgium, Delavan, Ripon, Plymouth, Rosendale, Stevens Point, Random Lake, Paddock Lake and many, many more.

The FOX 6 Investigators learned Zapencki will spend weeks in a town, raking in cash and living large. He trades spots on the map for free lodging, free meals, free hair cuts and tanning, business cards, window tinting, photo shoots and beer.

Zapencki does produce the maps... eventually. In Port Washington, they've been waiting eight months. In Lake Geneva and Walworth, they've been waiting nearly two years.

But in Two Rivers, a convenience store owner tells FOX 6 she paid $300 for a spot on a map in 2006 and finally got her maps three years later.

Patsy Walesh says she only got the maps because she and other business owners banded together and contacted police.

The district attorney charged Zapencki with four misdemeanor counts of theft by fraud.

"The day that the hearing was scheduled, we got our Fun Treasure Maps," says Walesh.

By the time they were finally delivered, many of the businesses had closed. But, it was enough to get Zapencki off the hook.

When FOX 6 Investigators first caught up with Zapencki, our hidden cameras caught him trying to pin the blame on a former business partner, John "Montana" Assenza.

It's the same excuse he gave Patsy Walesh three years earlier - that his business partner left with the money.

Montana can't defend himself now. In May, he overdosed on heroin and died.

Ed and Montana were a team. Together, the pair hawked their maps all over the state.

"I loved him like a brother," says Zapencki. "On and off, we worked together for 12 years."

Zapencki says he was never late the first 11 years of his business. But, the truth is, he has been a vocational delinquent for years.

In 2007, the Office of Consumer Protection ordered him to stop his unfair trade practices. They also ordered him to warn future customers - in writing - that it could take 15 months to complete a map.

In the past two years alone, Zapencki has sold ads to nearly 1000 businesses. At an average of $200 each, he's raked in nearly $200,000.

And yet, he claims he is broke.

Right now, Zapencki has seven overdue maps to complete, but he told FOX 6 he can't afford to finish them unless he sells new ads somewhere else.

"I guess I'm at the point where if you run this on TV, it'll probably ruin me and I can't sell. And if I can't sell, I'll never be able to catch up."

Fun Treasure Maps are supposed to be a game, where customers who spot the mistakes can win prize money.

Over the years, Zapencki has promised to give away thousands of dollars.

In 2006, the state ordered him to prove that people really do win prizes. But, so far, he's submitted evidence of just six winners, for a total of $105 in prizes.

A spokesman for the Wisconsin Consumer Protection office declined an interview for this story, saying they have re-opened their investigation of Fun Treasure Maps.

If you believe you may be a victim, you can file a complaint by calling 1-800-422-7128.