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Ganos-related companies trying to transfer contracts to new firm

Concrete trucks operated by Sonag Ready Mix sit along Milwaukee’s 4th Street in 2015 before beginning a pour for the Moderne residential project. The owner of Sonag, Brian Ganos, is faced with a 22-count federal indictment alleging he set up companies with straw-man owners to take advantage of set-aside contracts for minority-, women- and veteran-owned contractors. Now two of those companies, Sonag and Nuvo Construction, are trying to pass more than two dozen outstanding contracts to a newly formed concern led by officials who recently worked for Nuvo. (Photo by Kevin Harnack)

Concrete trucks operated by Sonag Ready Mix sit along Milwaukee’s 4th Street in 2015 before beginning a pour for the Moderne residential project. The owner of Sonag, Brian Ganos, is faced with a 22-count federal indictment alleging he set up companies with straw-man owners to take advantage of set-aside contracts for minority-, women- and veteran-owned contractors. Now two of those companies, Sonag and Nuvo Construction, are trying to pass more than two dozen outstanding contracts to a newly formed concern led by officials who recently worked for Nuvo. (Photo by Kevin Harnack)

After an indictment accused the Milwaukee contractor Brian Ganos of setting up a web of fraudulent companies, two of his businesses, Sonag and Nuvo Construction, are passing their outstanding contracts to a newly formed company led by officials who recently worked for Nuvo.

Sonag and Nuvo have each enlisted a company called JMJ Construction, which has ties to Nuvo, to complete unfinished work. That’s according to court documents in a federal criminal case against Ganos, which accuses him of setting up companies with straw-man owners to take advantage of set-aside contracts for minority-, women- and veteran-owned contractors.

JMJ Construction was established in June, according to state records, and has an office in Waukesha listed on its website. The company received $150,000 from Sonag Construction to finish work – at Lorenz Hall at the Mendota Mental Health Institute in Madison – that Sonag itself has been unable to complete.

Separately, Nuvo Construction, which prosecutors also allege Ganos established to win
set-aside contracts, is seeking to pass its incomplete projects to JMJ, according to court papers.

Nuvo and JMJ appear to share two top officials.

State records list JMJ’s registered agent as Jim Seebruck, who identifies himself on his LinkedIn profile as vice president of Nuvo Construction. And the vice president of JMJ is Bridgette Wiggins, according to her LinkedIn profile. Before taking that position in June, Wiggins had worked as a project administrator at Nuvo for five years and, for six years before that, as an assistant project manager at C3T Inc., another Ganos-linked company.

Nuvo and JMJ did not return requests for comment. In an email on Tuesday, Wiggins denied that JMJ was affiliated with Sonag or Nuvo.

“The corporation has no ownership in common with Sonag or Nuvo, nor any affiliation with those organizations,” Wiggins said. “JMJ services a variety of customers in addition to Sonag and Nuvo. JMJ employs a number of individuals, some of whom have prior experience working for a number of other construction companies, including Nuvo.”

Sonag Construction appears to be shutting down under the weight of the government’s 22-count indictment, which stems from a five-year investigation and raids of two properties linked to Ganos.

According to an affidavit filed in court earlier this month, the company completed its final project at Lorenz Hall in mid-December and was expected to shut down soon afterward.

According to new court filings, though, that’s not the end of Sonag Construction’s obligations. Even were Lorenz Hall finished, the company would still have three more projects to complete.

As for the Lorenz Hall job, it has cost Sonag $263,000 in losses, according to an email from the company’s insurer. And that sum doesn’t include the estimated $150,000 Sonag spent hiring JMJ to wrap up the job or deal with “defective millwork” that could drive up costs by another $75,000.

A Wisconsin Department of Administration spokeswoman did not answer questions about Sonag’s work on the project by press time.

Court filings suggest that Nuvo Construction may be winding down, too. Beyond trying to enlist JMJ to finish a number of outstanding projects, Nuvo is seeking to pay the company $693,000 for the transfer of the related contracts, an amount meant to cover JMJ’s “service fee” and the cost of hiring existing employees. Separately, te Ganos-related C3T Inc. is likewise finding itself unable to finish “several” projects, according to an affidavit filed by Ganos.

Sonag is under an obligation to cover outstanding debts from Nuvo and C3T, Ganos said. In his affidavit and a filing from his bonding company, Ganos argues the companies aren’t turning profits. Ganos and his attorneys are also trying to have a court-imposed restraining order overturned.

The order, handed down by a judge in March, confiscates the $3,173-a-week payments Ganos had been getting for selling his stake in the concrete contractor Sonag Ready Mix in February 2018.

“Absent the court staying or vacating the restraining order, Sonag and I will not be able to pay the costs listed above, upcoming fees due to counsel, or my salary,” according to his affidavit.

In all, Sonag, Nuvo and C3T are faced with $1.4 million worth of losses from 27 outstanding contracts, according to Ganos’ bonding company, and must pay engineering consulting fees and attorneys to collect $4.4 million from outstanding contracts.

But prosecutors and investigators don’t believe that Ganos is broke.

In an affidavit filed on Monday, Jennifer Walkowski, an FBI agent, wrote that Ganos has an interest in several companies associated with Sonag Ready Mix, which is still operating. The U.S. Marshall’s Service estimates Ganos has an interest of $2.2 million in six holding companies that own properties, equipment and vehicles used by Sonag Ready Mix.

Walkowski also provided details from evidence that investigators found during two raids of Ganos’ properties. Among the spoils of his business were a pair of vintage muscle cars – including a 1969 Shelby Mustang valued at $105,000 – two Disney timeshares worth about $60,000, a $20,000 mink coat, a 5-carat diamond ring appraised at $91,800 and a nearly $20,000 Rolex watch.

Investigators also cited casino records showing that Ganos, since being indicted a year ago, has spent $4,865 to “buy in” to 14 different poker tournaments at Potawatomi Casino. That tally does not include money he might have spent on other trips to the casino.

And it’s just a slice of the sources of wealth that prosecutors argue Ganos has access to. In a response to Ganos’ attempt to undo the judge’s restraining order, prosecutors note that Ganos has yet to provide a full account of his assets.

Dean Strang, an attorney for Ganos, did not return a message seeking comment by press time.

”Nowhere does Ganos state that either he or Sonag Company will be unable to retain their current counsel through trial solely because of the Restraining Order,” prosecutors wrote. “The omission of a detailed financial affidavit is telling because the government has reason to believe Ganos has substantial assets, both personally, in Sonag Company, and other businesses.”

About Nate Beck, nbeck@dailyreporter.com

Nate Beck is The Daily Reporter's construction staff writer. He can be reached at (414) 225-1814 (office) or 414-388-5635 (mobile).

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